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Two 106-Year Olds Finish High School!

March 6th, 2013

106-year old Reba Williams. Photo credit with permission: Dave Polcyn/Mansfield Journal News

It’s LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day today and HTE’s post today is dedicated to this great event.  

793 million people are unable to read. Read this post (or anything) out loud today and you’ll be taking part in a global event to help raise awareness for, and share your voice with, those who can’t. That’s it. And if you want to,  let us know below if you did.   Today’s HTE story is tied to the event. It’s about the importance of literacy … and looking out for each other.

How old will you be when you finish high school? For most of us it’s when we’re around 17 or 18 years old.

Just a couple of weeks apart, two 106-year olds are receiving their high school diplomas. It’s an amazing enough accomplishment they’ve lived that long! And the two stories have nothing to do with each other.

Fred Butler, who lives in Beverly, Massachussets, received his diploma on Monday. A diploma is the official piece of paper your school gives you saying you’re done.

Mr. Butler, who was in a wheelchair, held his diploma on his lap at the small ceremony that included his great-grandchildren, The Boston Globe newspaper reported.

106-year old Fred Butler. Photo credit: Family handout

The Globe  article also said Mr. Butler dropped out of school in the 8th grade to help support his mother and five younger siblings. He then fought in World War II and had a family. It had always bothered Mr. Butler that he didn’t finish high school.

His family helped get him an honorary degree (which means he didn’t have to go back and complete the school work). Mr. Butler told The Globe , “I never expected to get anything like that. I really appreciate it.”

One comment in a British newspaper  went even farther saying, “he deserve(s) a Ph.D for the job of raising a family, staying married for 65 years, serving (his) country and keeping a job!”

Reba Williams, the other 106-year old getting her diploma, will be receiving hers in the coming days. She lives in Lucas, Ohio.

She actually did complete all the school work she needed to finish high school — except for one last book she was supposed to read, her local newspaper, the Mansfield News Journal , reported. Ms. Williams told her teacher at the time that she’d already read that book and didn’t plan to read it again.

That, and almost 90 years, came between her and her diploma. Ms. Williams never did re-read the book but a woman who learned about Ms. Williams’s situation thought it would be nice for her to have after all these years. Ms. Williams agreed.

Ms. Williams is from Ohio. Mr. Butler is from Massachusetts.

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15 Comments on “Two 106-Year Olds Finish High School!”

  • Katelyn Molleur says:

    how do people live that long?!

  • Alex says:

    That is so cool

  • Mrs. Fassett's Class says:

    How did they live 106 years?

    • Claudia says:

      Hi Mrs. Fassett’s class. That’s a question a lot of people want to know the answer to! I’m so glad you asked. I wish I knew too! What do you think makes some people live a really long time? Here are some things that most people who live to over 100 have in common: some of it is luck — their genes, something that you’re born with. Another factor is that our medicines have gotten better and they can help keep us alive longer. And the one you have control over is making good choices — eating healthy, being in loving relationships with family and friends, keeping your body active, staying positive, and staying curious. And some of it’s just luck. Most of the time it’s a combination of all the things listed but there’s never a guarantee. None of the newspaper articles said exactly why Mr. Butler and Ms. Williams have lived as long as they have, but both of them said they have a real love of learning (inside of school and out), and that probably helps. I should also add that this may be a wonderful question to ask an elderly relative or a senior in your community. They have a lifetime’s worth of wisdom to share.

  • Ms. Malone's Class says:

    Why couldn’t Ms. William’s teacher just give her a different assignment so she could graduate?

    • Claudia says:

      Hi Ms. Malone’s class! What a great question. We wish we knew the answer to that too! The best I can tell you is what I’ve read. Rita Dailey, the woman who got the idea to get Reba Williams her diploma, said in an article that even though it’s important to complete assignments, in this case they could have found something different for her to do. Ms. Williams had apparently already read the book that was assigned, and didn’t like it, so she didn’t want to read it again. I wonder if it would have turned out differently if it had been a book she liked! When Ms. Williams finally got her diploma last month, at 106, she said, “I was learning all the time.” This link will take you to a beautiful little video of her being presented her diploma, wearing her graduation cap, and being surrounded by family (including her 88-year old “baby” brother!). Thanks for sending your question in!

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