Raymond Schaefer has seen and accomplished much in his life of 96 years. He’d been attending Racine County School of Agriculture in Wisconsin — which has since closed — when he dropped out of high school to help provide for his family and join the Army.
When he came home, he got married and worked in the equipment manufacturing business for four decades, according to WITI-TV. His wife has been gone for a decade now, and at 96, Schaefer only seems to have one regret that he voices often: He’d never finished high school and gotten his diploma.
“He’d say things like, ‘Well, I wish I had a high school diploma but I was just too dumb,'” friend Cynthia Bennett said. “I didn’t get it and it’s like, that wasn’t the case at all. He went — he quit school to support his family.”
So Bennett decided to do something about it. She’d seen similar things happen before, so she reached out to Waterford school officials to see if they couldn’t get Schaefer his diploma after all.
“I would love to see him get a diploma so he feels his life was totally successful,” she explained, according to the Racine Journal Times.
Plans were made. A diploma was printed. A cap and gown were readied — but not a word of it to Schaefer.
Bennett wanted it to be a surprise — so she asked him to help her run an errand to Waterford High School.
When they arrived, it soon became clear what their true purpose was. There were balloons, friends, supporters and even some of the high school band all waiting for Schaefer.
“Raymond not only served his country, but he also served the world,” Principal Dan Foster said.
Schaefer was given his cap and gown, his diploma, and a medallion that read “Racine County School of Agriculture” nearly 80 years after dropping out.
“It’s just wonderful,” Bennett said. “It’s just over the top.”
“I waited a long time for it, never got around to it,” he said. “It’s great, great, very important.”
“I’m honored to be here,” long-time friend and attendee Mary Koch said. “It just means the world to me. I think so much of him.”
The school posted photos of the grand event, sharing Schaefer’s special moment with the world.
“Raymond is 96 years old and today he received his honorary high school diploma!” the Facebook post read.
“He left school to help support his family by serving in WWII. He has often mentioned how he wished he would have graduated from high school… it’s never too late to chase your dreams!”
“It’s great,” the man of the hour said. “I’ve thought of it many times, but just never got around to it. I’m excited.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.