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Military Diplomas Granted To Eight Men

By HEATHER POHLABEL
Daily Globe Staff Reporter

SHELBY - Eight men have received military diplomas from Shelby High School, years after they left their studies to join the military. The latest recipient, James Brown, was awarded his diploma Monday night at Shelby City Schools Board of Education meeting by Principal John Gies.

Brown, a WWII Veteran, spoke as he received his diploma. "Everyone was leaving our class for World War II," he said. "I went into the Merchant Marines until 1948. Then I came home and started my apprenticeship in brick laying. Back then you didn't have to go to a high school to do that."

"In 1970, the union wanted me to be the teacher for the apprenticeship school. In 1976, they contacted me at Pioneer and told me they wanted to start a brick laying program and they wanted me to teach it. I didn't have a diploma so I had to take a GED test. I taught at Pioneer from 1978-1992. I never gave it a thought about having a diploma...I really appreciate it," Brown concluded.

Albert Haines received his diploma posthumously. Haines completed the 11th grade and had enlisted before his senior year. He was called in to serve in August of 1960, one month before the start of his senior year at Shelby High School, according to his widow, Claudia Haines, who applied for and received his diploma in honor of him.

Claudia commented, "It's just something that I wanted to do for him and my daughters, Cally (Robert) Lykins of Arizona and Kim Bonecutter of Shelby. It's meaningful for my family because he wasn't able to finish his last year of school here. He went to school all of his years here, first at St. Mary's and then at Shelby High School. Albert passed away in 2001."

Russel Wilkinson also received his diploma posthumously under the care of his daughter, Marilyn Hopkins. Wilkinson left in 1942 for the Navy. "My dad didn't talk about it a lot, but the story was that he left high school to go to the service. One of the guys at our church said they always included the guys who left school to go in the service in their class events, even though they didn't graduate.

"He enjoyed his time in school," Hopkins continued. "He was the equipment manager for the football team and earned a manager's letter. I knew if my dad could get his diploma, he'd be proud of it. When they did the Veterans Roll Call at the high school, there were articles in the paper about military diplomas, and it made me think about it. I called John Gies (principal) at the high school and asked if he was eligible. I just knew that my dad would always be proud; he would be happy that we thought do that for him."

Albert Dunn, a WWII Veteran, left high school after his sophomore year and joined the military on July 4, 1942. He was in the 3rd Infantry division and completed an "amphibious landing in southern France, where we marched to Germany," he relayed. Dunn was released in December of 1945, and returned to find work at Swan Rubber in Bucyrus. He got married on December 23, 1950 and bought a farm. He worked as a farmer until his retirement.

When asked why he chose to pursue his diploma now, Dunn replied, "I saw an article in the Globe and got in contact with John Gies. I was awarded the diploma on March 13, 2015. I think, to tell you the truth, my son enjoyed it more than I did. My son graduated from college and my three grandkids graduated from college and I thought, it is about time their grandpa gets a diploma!"

Richard Gorsuch, Jr. left school in 1973 and entered military in 1974. Gorsuch was thankful for the opportunity to receive his diploma after his service. "Now all four of my parents' kids have Shelby diplomas. I'd really like to thank John Gies for all of his hard work. He did a lot of footwork; we sure appreciate him," Gorsuch said.

Dean Shaffer left Plymouth High School to join the Army. He is a Vietnam Veteran. The law regarding military diplomas allows him to receive a diploma from which ever high school he wants, so he chose Shelby since he has lived here for about 40 years.

Ross Marsh left high school in 1952, his senior year, and entered the Navy. "I had three brothers in WWII. One brother was in prison camp for a year. I decided if they were in, I should go in," Marsh explained. "When I joined, I wanted to join the Marines and my brothers didn't let me. I was an airplane mechanic," he shared.

Regarding receiving his diploma at the age of 80, Marsh said, "I think it's great. I really do. I never expected it. I have it sitting right on the table where I can look at it all the time."

Gerald Fisher left for the Army after completing the 11th grade in 1949, and earning his diploma was something he spent time trying to do while in the military. "I was assessed for my GED in the military, right after basic training," Fisher recalled. "My results were sent to Shelby High School, and the military requested I be issued my diploma. It was turned down by the administration at that time. Then I took college classes for two years and requested it again, and was turned down again; I just gave it up. I got my college degree in general education at a community college and that's what it amounted to. I just kinda gave up on it."

Fisher's sister-in-law, Nancy, saw a Daily Globe article regarding military diplomas and reached out to Fisher and encouraged him to call the high school. "I had a very pleasant conversation with John Gies and he said he would see what he could do, and then he called back and said the board was going to issue a diploma!" Fisher explained.

"I spent 20 years in the Army," continued Fisher. " A friend of mine and I went in together; we got separated and he went into Korea. I spent two years on the Camp Mercury, Nevada test site testing atomic bombs. We were in full control of all the testing and monitoring, taking readings after a blast, and helping to set up before a blast. I was involved in research the rest of my career. When I was at a chemical plant in Utah, we tested mustard gas and nerve agents, and when I went to Panama, we tested those chemicals in the jungle to make sure they weren't affected by their environment," Fisher said about his colorful career.

Regarding finally receiving something he had tried so hard to get earlier in life, 84 year old Fisher exclaimed, "I am very proud to have that in my possession. I showed it to my kids and they are very happy for me too."

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