Watch CBS News

77 years later, New Jersey World War II veteran John Garofalo finally receives his high school diploma

95-year-old World War II veteran finally receives high school diploma
95-year-old World War II veteran finally receives high school diploma 02:26

LYNDHURST, N.J. -- A dream has come true for a 95-year-old World War II veteran from New Jersey.

As CBS2's Cindy Hsu reported Thursday, he finally has his high school diploma.

John Garofalo recently received an honorary diploma from Lyndhurst High School.

In 1945, when Garofalo was 18, he enlisted in the Navy just two weeks before his graduation, so never received his diploma. He served for one year and then came back home, got married, opened a store, and played the saxophone in a band.

On a recent birthday, he told his family he regretted not having his diploma, so he and his family went to work.

"So he went to the board of [education] and they tried at that point to look for the records and they couldn't find them, so they really had no proof that he was actually a student at Lyndhurst High School," daughter Mary Pitera said.

It took years to find the proof that Garofalo had graduated. His granddaughter Stephanie Pitera finally found a music program that was posted online from 1945 that included his name.

So how did it feel after waiting 77 years?

"Oh my God, I can't begin to tell you how it was. It was unbelievable," Garofalo said.

"I cried because I felt, I just felt so, so happy that it finally happened for him, because he said that's the only thing he's missing in his life. He's got everything else. He says, 'I have it all.' He goes, 'I just never got a diploma,'" Pitera said.

The family even found a cap and gown for him, but that was a no-go.

"He's a suit and tie guy," Pitera said with a laugh.

"So I actually put a picture of him with me at my graduation and then we took a picture of me with him at his graduation, so it was really special, really full circle," Stephanie Pitera added.

Garofalo has six children, 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

So what's his secret to a long life?

"Don't stand still. I was doing sometimes three jobs in one day," Garofalo said.

As for his diet, he said there's nothing that he doesn't eat, adding, "Candy bars, everything! I eat everything!"

And he also enjoys dancing.

When asked about retirement, Garofalo said he's not retired from life, and now that he has his diploma, maybe he'll get a job. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.