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97-Year-Old Receives Diploma From School She Left in 1932

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By    |   Monday, 02 Nov 2015 11:38 AM

A 97-year-old woman received an honorary diploma from the Michigan high school she had to leave in her junior year in 1932 to take care of her dying mother and younger siblings.

Margaret Bekema wiped away tears at the Yorkshire and Stoneridge Manor senior community near Grand Rapids as she received the diploma in front of family and friends, said MLive.com.

Bekema left Grand Rapids Catholic Center before her senior year because her mother Katherine developed cancer and her father Leo Thome needed help caring for her three younger siblings, said WXMI-TV.

"I had to quit school to take over the family," Bekema told MLive.com. She cooked, cleaned and made all the clothes.

"It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was. I loved high school and I had lots of friends," she said.

Bekema later went on to perform clerical work for the armed forces and became a preschool teacher, said WXMI-TV. She is now a widow with four grandchildren and one great grandson, said MLive.com.

"She is the type of person that whatever life hands her, she just deals with it very graciously," said Gerri Smith, one of Bekema's two children. "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."

Smith said her mother always regretted leaving school early but was pleased to have the honor now.

"She said her heart was broken when she said she had to drop out," said Catholic Central principal Greg Deja. "Today was just a small part to lift that heart and put it back together for her life."

Bekema fought through her emotions in receiving the award.

"How can I express myself?" Bekema said, fighting back tears. "I don't know how to express my thanks."

Sister Maureen Geary, the daughter of Bekema's cousin, got the ball rolling by contacting Catholic Central in August, said MLive.com.

"She has been so self-giving all her life," said Geary who was cared for by Bekema when she was a baby.


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A 97-year-old woman received an honorary diploma from the Michigan high school she had to leave in her junior year in 1932 to take care of her dying mother and younger siblings.
97-year-old, receives, diploma
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Monday, 02 Nov 2015 11:38 AM
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