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World War II Veteran from Florence Finally Receives High School Diploma

Robert Bockelman was a high school student in St. Bernard, Oh., when, in 1944, he received a summons to join the American armed forces in World War II. He was 17, and answered the call.
 
Bockelman did not finish high school.
 
His military journey started in basic training at Ft. McClellan in Alabama. He was then shipped overseas following the famous Battle of the Bulge.
 
"I was scared to death," Bockelman remembered. "I didn't even think of refusing to go. I was very young then, and I don't think I knew what I was getting into. I just went."
 
He served in the Army from 1944 to 1948, and when he returned home as a staff sergeant, he earned his GED and took some college courses. He went on a blind date and eventually married Marge in 1950. They raised a daughter, Amy, and a son, Gary. Bockelman worked with Cincinnati Gas & Electric as a ditch digger and eventually rose to become director of the utility's operations in Northern Kentucky.
 
Bockelman spent 36 years with CG&E.
 
Marge passed away in 2003, and Bob now resides in the assisted living community of Elmcroft in Florence. His children live in Northern Kentucky, and he gets visits from them and his four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
 
"Bob is kind, delightful, and generous," said Norma McAlister, a friend who sits at an adjacent table for meals at Elmcroft. "Everybody likes him."
 
But there is one thing more that Bob wanted.
 
An organization called Second Wind Dreams, a nationwide non-profit organization dedicated to fulfilling dreams for seniors or helping them to relive good memories of the past, asked Bob if he had any regrets.
 
"I said, yes, I would have liked to get my diploma," he told them.
 
Bockelman said that he would have liked to have graduated high school with his class, getting a diploma instead of a GED.
 
Second Wind Dreams contacted Dr. Mimi Webb, Superintendent of St. Bernard Schools, and she said that she felt honored to do her part to give a hero a small part of what he missed by defending his country.
 
This week, a ceremony was held at Elmcroft and Bockelman was presented with a Class of 1944 diploma. He was brought to tears.
 
"I never experienced anything like this," he said softly. "I never thought I would see this."
 
The City of Florence issued a proclamation in his honor, too.
 
He looked down at the diploma. When asked if he was surprised, he said, "Surprised isn't the word for it."
 
Later, Bob opened a gift from Dr. Webb: a yearbook from 1944, along with a sweatshirt from St. Bernard High School. 
 
Story & photos by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
 
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