A 97-year-old woman recently received her high school diploma, and by doing so, the nonagenarian became the oldest person ever to graduate in the school’s history. As reported by USA Today, Margaret Bekema finally received her honorary diploma from Michigan’s Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School nearly eight decades after being forced to leave school in order to look after her family.
“After all of these years, representing all of the core values for which our school stands, we proudly recognize Margaret with an official honorary diploma,” school Principal Greg Deja said in a statement. “The selfless way Margaret lived her life truly embodies Catholic Central’s core values and we are proud to now officially claim her as a Catholic Central alumna.”
Margaret Bekema from Walker, Michigan, has finally graduated after a decades-long wait. Bekema had to say goodbye to her school career when she was 17 to care for her family, which included her three younger siblings. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer and her father worked to support the family.
Bekema graduated on Thursday at the Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, but she would have graduated in 1936 if she had not been forced to leave school. However, she is grateful to finally receive her diploma.
“Her life has been one of sacrifice and service,” Deja told reporters. “It has been so encouraging and inspiring for our community because her choices represent all the core values that we teach our students.”
Michigan Live wrote that Sister Maureen Geary, the daughter of Bekema’s cousin Marian, contacted the school in August to see if she was eligible to receive an honorary diploma. She said she had been thinking about it for a long time. After her relatives contacted the school, administrators jumped at the chance to honor her, a report from MTV stated.
“She has been so self-giving all her life,” an emotional Geary said.
Speaking with reporters, Geary spoke highly of the woman who cared for her when she was a baby for about six weeks while her mother was sick. She described Margaret as being a selfless person who always put the needs of others before herself.
Margaret’s daughter, Gerri Smith, also spoke of her mother’s character and she explained to reporters that her mom cared for her grandmother until her last days.
“She is the type of person that whatever life hands her, she just deals with it very graciously,” Smith said. “She does what has to be done and she doesn’t complain about it or make a big deal about it, she just does it.”
Friends and family attended the ceremony, which was held Thursday at the Yorkshire and Stonebridge Manor senior community in Walker, Michigan.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Margaret Thorne Bekema. “I had to quit school to take over the family.It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was. I loved high school and I had lots of friends.”
Margaret’s touching story shows that you’re never too old to learn something new.
This story of a 97-year-old receiving a diploma echoes a similar story from earlier this year. In April, New York Daily News reported that a 103-year-old Wisconsin woman graduated from high school nearly 90 years after she dropped out to take care of her eight younger siblings. Marie Hunt was officially named a high school graduate after officials from River Valley High School gave her the diploma during a ceremony at an assisted living facility.
[Image via Facebook/Catholic Central High School]