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95-year-old vet is overjoyed finally receiving high school diploma after 77 years
The WWII veteran felt like he had everything in life, but there was one puzzle piece missing - his high school diploma.
D.G. Sciortino
07.14.22

Ninety-five-year-old John Garofalo of Lyndhurst, New Jersey had everything he wanted in life. Except for one thing.

Garofalo served in the armed forces, owns a store, has a family, and can play the saxophone.

Despite all of his accomplishments, Garofalo never got a high school diploma. That’s because he enlisted in the Navy two weeks before graduation during World War II.

CBS New York - YouTube
Source:
CBS New York - YouTube

“I grew up down the hook on Sanford Avenue. Everybody knew everyone. My father grew vegetables and my siblings and I would go around town selling them out of a wagon. People would even come from New York to buy my dad’s figs. It was a simpler time. After I returned from the Navy, I got busy raising my family,” Garofalo told The Observer. “All six of my children attended Lyndhurst High School and received their diplomas, but I never got mine.”

CBS New York - YouTube
Source:
CBS New York - YouTube

Garofalo made a comment to his family about his regret in never having that diploma in his hands.

So, Garofalo and his family embarked on a quest to figure out how they could make that happen.

“So he went to the board of [education] and they tried at that point to look for the records and they couldn’t find them, so they really had no proof that he was actually a student at Lyndhurst High School,” daughter Mary Pitera told CBS News.

CBS New York - YouTube
Source:
CBS New York - YouTube

It wasn’t until years later that Garofalo found the proof he needed to get his diploma.

That proof came in a music program from 1945 that his granddaughter found posted online.

Garofalo’s name was listed in the program. When Superintendent Joseph DeCorso heard of Garofalo’s efforts he reached out to LHS Principal Laura Vuono who found an old record that stated that Garofalo had “left for the Navy.”

CBS New York - YouTube
Source:
CBS New York - YouTube

“Ms. Vuono’s been in the high school building for quite some time. She knew exactly where to look and found his old record card that actually said ‘left for the Navy,’” Superintendent Josphe DeCorso said.

CBS New York - YouTube
Source:
CBS New York - YouTube

Garofalo was among the 2022 graduates at Lyndhurst High School where he was handed an honorary diploma 77 years after he last attended high school.

His family also got him a cap and gown to wear, but Garofalo opted for a suit and tie.

“Oh my God, I can’t begin to tell you how it was. It was unbelievable,” Garofalo said.

CBS New York - YouTube
Source:
CBS New York - YouTube

Pitera couldn’t have been happier for her grandfather.

“I cried because I felt, I just felt so, so happy that it finally happened for him, because he said that’s the only thing he’s missing in his life. He’s got everything else. He says, ‘I have it all.’ He goes, ‘I just never got a diploma,'” Pitera said.

Pitera wasn’t the only one who was overjoyed for Garofalo.

“I can honestly say that seeing the smile on Mr. Garofalo’s face as I presented his diploma — after all these years — was the highlight of my career,” DeCorso said.

Garofalo, who was one of 11 children, has six kids, 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren.

Learn more about his story in the video below!

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By D.G. Sciortino
hi@sbly.com
D.G. is a contributing writer in Shareably. She's based in Connecticut and can be reached at hi@shareably.net.
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