Margaret Thome Bekema, 97, was supposed to graduate from Grand Rapids Catholic Central High in 1936. Instead, she had to leave school at age 17 because she had to take care of her ill with cancer mother and her siblings while their father went to work.
These unhappy circumstances prevented her from graduating with her Class of 1936. However, 79 years later, Bekema received an honorary diploma thanks to a distant relative.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Bekema told Mlive. “I had to quit school to take over the family. It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was. I loved high school and I had lots of friends.” Central Principal Greg Deja added, “her life has been one of sacrifice and service. It has been so encouraging and inspiring for our community because her choices represent all the core values that we teach our students.”+
When she was presented with her graduation cap, 97-year-old Margaret Bekema burst into tears.
Bekema had to leave school at 17 to take care of her siblings and sick mother.
Principal Greg Deja handed Bekema her diploma.
Touchingly, the diploma it’s dated the year Bekema would have graduated.
“I had to quit school to take over the family. It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was. I loved high school and I had lots of friends”
Bekema received even her school letter!
Image credits: Emily Rose Bennett / AP