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99-year-old pastor walks at high school graduation to finally get his diploma

99-year-old graduates from High School

It is never too late to fulfill your dreams, and one man from Big Sandy, Texas is proving just that.

The 99-year-old Dr Jack Hetzel walked alongside high school seniors to achieve his long-awaited lifelong goal: graduating from high school. 

Dr Jack Hetzel received his high school diploma in the spring of 2021 at 99 years old. 

The pastor and World War II Veteran has been through and seen a lot during his nearly 100 years of life. He enlisted in the army in 1941, was involved in five major World War II battles, wrote eight books, and spent his Sundays preaching at First United Methodist Church.

However, there was still one thing that Hetzel always dreamed of doing that he did not have the chance to do when he was younger, and that was to earn his high school diploma. 

99-year-old pastor walks at high school graduation to finally get his diploma

“I have longed to get this diploma since 1948 when I passed my GED,” he told KETK news. “But the school that I had attended I’d only attended to third grade, and they didn’t have any record of it so I couldn’t get a diploma from that school.” 

Hetzel shared that he often used other people as his teachers after he did not complete his schooling. “I used other people to be my teachers, so if I got a question, I’d go to somebody that knew and asked them the question and then I would use it in everyday life,” he says.

Upon learning about the pastor’s story, Big Sandy ISD’s superintendent, Mike Burns offered him the opportunity to walk the stage alongside the high school graduating class of 2021 and finally be handed his high school diploma. He kept Hetzel’s appearance a surprise from other students. “We’re really proud to be able to give him something that means so much to him,” Burns says. “It’s gonna be one of the highlights of my school year for sure.” 

Hetzel proudly walked the stage in his cap and gown to receive his long-awaited and very much-deserved degree. “It’s very exciting,” Dr. Hetzel says. “You see when you have little education and then you have to come up through life and you have to front life with little education, you have to learn somehow.”

Hetzel does not take the opportunity he was given for granted and is well aware of how fortunate he is to have reached all of his significant accomplishments, no matter how late in life. “99 years of age, that’s something to be blessed about,” he says. “How much more do I need?” 

Hetzel celebrated his 100th birthday on November 18, 2021, six months after finally graduating high school. 

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