Vince Golembiowski joined the Air Force before graduating from high school. For decades he told his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren how he always wished he had received his high school diploma. His family helped him achieve that dream 70 years later.
At 17, Vince Golembiowski left his hometown of Clyde, Ohio, to enlist in the US Air Force and fight in the Korean War. He had completed his GED certificate his senior year but went overseas before his high school graduation. For years the veteran told his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that one of his greatest regrets was not receiving his high school diploma. Although it has been 70 years since he left school, his family ensured his lifelong dream would come true. On Christmas Day his son, Michael, surprised him with the news he would be receiving his diploma from Clyde High School.
“I was actually sitting in Fremont one afternoon, and it was actually a thing on one of the local TV stations of some gentleman in his 90s that received his college degree,” Michael Golembiowski told WTOL. “So I got to thinking, ‘Well, you never see anybody getting their high school diploma at that age.’”
The diploma was given to his father at the Clyde-Green Springs school board meeting on Jan. 26.
“At age 88, they just give me my high school diploma, which is a miracle,” Golembiowski told ABC News. “There are six of us left from the class of 1950, and we still see each other.”
With his diploma in his hand, this Air Force veteran was as surprised as he was grateful. “I’ve had the opportunity to be a crew chief on the F-86 jet fighter. Crew chief on the C-54 four-engine transport. I’ve shaken the hand of Syngman Rhee, the president of South Korea,” Golembiowski said. With a smile, he added, “I never, ever, at 88 years old … I had no idea at all something like this is possible. But boy, I’m totally grateful. Now I can go out and get a job. I got a diploma.”
Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.