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106-year-old war vet receives high school diploma

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Beverly's oldest resident Fred Butler dropped out of school to support his family in the early 1920s. Here, he accepts his high school diploma 92 years later in front of family and city officials.
(Carl Stevens / WBZ NewsRadio Boston)

It may have taken him nine and a half decades, but 106-year-old Fred Butler can finally say he's a high school graduate.

The World War II vet was awarded an honourary diploma from Beverly High School in Beverly, Massachusetts Monday during what the Associated Press called an "emotional ceremony" attended by family, school officials, and the city's mayor.

"It's a long time to wait for your diploma," Mayor Bill Scanlon told Butler during the presentation, "but you've obviously earned it very well."

Butler was forced to drop out of high school in the 1920s before starting the ninth grade to help support his mother and five younger siblings.

He accepted a full-time job at a local print shop where he worked until the age of 34, when he was drafted into the army. While overseas, Butler continued to send any extra money he made home to his mother reports

After returning from the war, Butler got married, had five children, and worked for the city of Beverly's water department until retirement at the age of 68.

"He's extremely bright and inquisitive and certainly could've acquired a high school diploma and beyond, were the circumstances different," said Cathy Butler, the new-grad's former daughter-in-law.

"It's part of his story, which says 'I never made it past the eighth grade because times were tough.' That's what it really came down to. He didn't really have a choice. And then life gets in the way."

Knowing that he had always been bothered by his lack of formal education, Cathy spearheaded the effort to get Butler his high school diploma following the death of his wife Ruth last year. She figured would be a nice way to boost his spirits. -- a prediction that appears to have been correct!

"I thank everybody who is responsible for this," said Butler during Monday's ceremony, surrounded by his family. "I certainly appreciate it."

Fred's family members say he's always emphasized the importance of education to his children and grandchildren. They happily joined him at Monday's ceremony.
(Carl Stevens / WBZ NewsRadio Boston)

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