TWO RIVERS, Wis. — Graduation season has ended for the 17- and 18-year-old class of 2016, but one man experienced the yearly tradition of holding a diploma and wearing a graduation cap at the age of 90 on Tuesday afternoon.
After 73 years, Don Meneau finally received his high school diploma, the Herald Times Reporter reported.
The Two Rivers native had felt a need to serve his country during World War II rather than stick around for another year of schooling at the former Washington High School.
Receiving his high school diploma has always been something he had wanted. He admitted that, like any student, he procrastinated in doing so. However, now that the time came, he is very proud.
"This has been a long time coming," Don said to a gathering of his family at the Two Rivers Family Restaurant, where Two Rivers High School Principal Larry Schlosser presented the diploma.
He and his wife Judy are planning on placing their diplomas next to one another on their bookshelf.
Meneau voluntarily joined the Army in 1943 and spent time in France and Germany as a member of the 326th Glider Infantry Regiment of the 13th and 82nd airborne divisions. After leaving Europe and joining the reserves, Meneau came home to work and provide for his new wife instead of worrying about his last year of school.
Two weeks ago, the Meneau's only son, Mike, who lives out of state, called Schlosser to see if it was possible for them to coordinate getting Don his diploma.
"We were very excited he had come forward," Schlosser said. "We are hoping that other veterans will do the same."
After checking state statute stipulations to awarding veterans diplomas and getting approval from the Two Rivers Board of Education, Schlosser did some research and was able to recreate a diploma as it would have looked in the 1940s. They were even able to use a Washington High School diploma case to place the document in.
Schlosser said he could not recall doing this for any other veterans in the last 20 years he has been with the Two Rivers district.
World War II veteran Don Meneau, 90, receives a cap and a honorary high school from Two Rivers High School Principal Larry Schlosser at Two Rivers Family restaurant with his family members surrounded on July 19 in Two Rivers. Meneau was supposed to graduate in 1945 but he went into the war after his junior year in Washington High School in 1943 and did not have an opportunity to finish his last year of high school after coming back from the war.
Photo Credit: Yi-Chin Lee /Herald-Times Reporter via AP)
Not having a diploma never stopped Meneau from performing his duties for country or family over the years.
After his return from Europe, he took a G.I. home study course and got a machinist apprenticeship, eventually becoming an aluminum welder at Mirro. Later, he worked his way into the Two Rivers Water and Light Department to be a lineman. Meneau then worked for the Meter Department with the city and spent 27 of 37 years with the city as the electric distribution superintendent.
"It was never a problem, not having my diploma, I just had to convince them I was smart enough," Meneau said with a laugh.
In addition to his home studies, he took a number of college-level electrician short courses at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"When I learned my son was organizing this, it was a surprise," Meneau said. "Finding a whole group of my family members here for the reception was an even bigger surprise."
Eight family members, including his sister, came to Two Rivers from as far as Laona to join him for brunch at the restaurant.
His wife, Judy, who did receive her diploma in 1945 — like Don should have — beamed with pride for her husband when Schlosser presented the belated diploma to him.
"It is great, this is something he has always wanted," Judy said. The couple has been together since the age of 16 and last Dec. 26, they celebrated 70 years of marriage.
Considering Mike was in Michigan during this presentation, Schlosser made a video call to Mike so he could watch his dad become a graduate. On the Michigan end, they recorded the whole video, so they could save the memory for years to come.
"Yesterday was so fun, the whole family really appreciates what the Two Rivers district did for us," Mike said.
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