WWII Vet Gets his Dying Wish, His High School Diploma

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When Charles Williams was discharged from the navy in 1943, he had one goal — to earn his high school diploma.

Thanks to the efforts of his daughter and a social worker, he got his wish just weeks before he died.

Williams, who was born in Athens and attended Glouster High School, died on Dec. 16, at his daughter’s home in Rockville, Md. He was 88.

“When I read my dad’s discharge papers from the navy from World War II, I saw his goal was to finish high school,” said his daughter Bonnie Henry.

“And I thought to myself, ‘How can I help make this happen?’”

So she made a couple calls.

His caseworker at the facility where he was under hospice care took the lead, and the next thing Henry knew, Trimble Local School District issued the diploma.

“When I showed it to him, he cried,” she recalled.

“He was so happy.”

According to Ohio Revised Code, schools may grant a high school diploma to any veteran of World War II, the Korean conflict or the Vietnam conflict if the veteran received an honorable discharge.

The same privilege is offered to women who either served honorably or left school to support her family during the war effort.

“I so admired the fact that even on his discharge papers, dated Dec. 1943, Mr. Williams’ stated goal was to receive his high school diploma,” said Supt. Kim Jones.

“I am glad the law allows recognition of his service in this way.”

When Williams left Glouster High School to join the navy, he became a corpsman and was stationed in Guam, states his obituary.

After returning from the navy, he moved to Canton to start his career at the Timken Co. as a forger and retired 40 years later in 1986.

Charles always called himself “Lucky Chuck” because he met and fell in love with “Ginny,” the love of his life.

“Even without a diploma, he made an amazing life,” Henry said.

“He built a life with my mom, never owed anybody a penny, they owned a farm. He as a brilliant man. I miss him a lot. But I was as excited as he was to know that he got this before he died. I think it was a wonderful wish that came true for him.”

Not long after the passing of his wife, his daughters would take him on road trips.

It became a new tradition for the family.

Henry said Friday afternoon she was taking her father on one last road trip by transporting his body from Maryland back to Ohio.

Williams was buried with his degree on Saturday morning at the North Lawn Mausoleum in Canton, next to his wife.