A high school graduation 80 years in the making

Published: Jun. 27, 2021 at 7:58 PM EDT
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HAMMOND, New York (WWNY) - Most high school seniors are about 18 years old. Graduating in front of their friends and families is a big milestone in a teenager’s life. But one man had to wait a little bit longer. Bill Plantz is 98 years old. He was born in Hammond in 1922, the fourth oldest of 10 children, and he was set to graduate from Hammond central school in 1941. That never happened because Plantz joined the Navy instead.

“When he joined, it was just about two weeks before Pearl Harbor got attacked,” Mike Savage, Plantz’s nephew, said.

Savage said Plantz worked as a radioman in the Navy. His three brothers, Walter, Lewis, and Warren served in the Navy as well. After the war, Savage said Plantz was a postal worker in California before moving back to the area in the 70′s. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, his family figured out a way for Plantz to finally have his graduation.

“Well my brother Warren,” Savage said, “he heard about a program for honorary diplomas for any veterans that served.”

So they coordinated with the school. At the beginning of Sunday’s graduation, Hammond Central School Superintendent Douglas McQueer introduced Plantz to the crowd.

“This gentleman is Hammond’s last surviving World War Two veteran,” McQueer said. “This has been long overdue.”

In front of a standing ovation from the crowd...McQueer handed Plantz his honorary diploma. To tie it all together, it’s the same school that Savage and his three siblings attended. All were on hand to witness the moment.

What does it mean to Plantz to finally receive his honorary diploma?

“I’m really excited to be here right now. It means a lot,” Plantz said

A moment 80 years in the making, one that seemed so far out of reach but Plantz finally has that diploma in hand

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