The class of 2008 at Detroit Southwestern High School was eager to accept their diplomas during Monday night’s commencement, and for one grad, the anticipation of accepting his diploma was seventy years in the making. 90-year-old John Lawrence Locher, who now resides in Cape Coral, Florida, made a special trip to his former hometown of Detroit to accept his diploma after he dropped out in his tenth grade year.

“My family was starving, literally,” Locher recalled. Just a teenager at that time, in the midst of what should have been the most enjoyable and memorable years of his life, Locher was forced to go to work to support his family. Locher’s father had contracted tuberculosis, and the entire country was sinking into a deep economic depression.

“I did all kinds of work. I worked my fanny off,” Locher said.

One form of work that Locher did not do was homework. Despite dropping out, the current principal at Detroit Southwestern granted Locher an honorary diploma for “life credits.” Locher certainly had ample life experiences under his belt to deserve the honor: after supporting his family by working various jobs [including a paper route that earned Locher 33 cents and hour] Locher accepted a job with Detroit’s General Motors Corporation in 1936, working his way up the ranks to Senior Design Engineer. Locher left GM after 38 years of service.

At Monday’s commencement, Locher proudly sat with his fellow graduates, wearing his cap and gown, and accepted his diploma. Locher’s wife, Mary, 80, attended the ceremony with five of their eight children.

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