Gratz graduates great-grandmothers

June 18, 2009 4:21:10 PM PDT
The 85- and 91-year-old women earned high school diplomas - and lots of respect.

Most graduates of Simon Gratz High School cheered today about getting their diplomas after 12 years of school. But two in their class earned honorary diplomas 75 and 69 years after they should have graduated.

91-year-old Marion Klarman and 85-year-old Dorothy McAuley each had to quit high school during their junior years to get jobs to help their families during the Great Depression.

"Our family needed the money," said Marion. "And even though I was making only 35 cents an hour, we were all keeping the wolf from the door."

Marion was a stock girl at Gimbels department store. Dorothy worked in her family's store on Wayne Avenue.

The two women, who didn't know each other, eventually married, had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. But each still longed for her diploma.

"It's something I always felt I should have," said Dorothy. "I was almost embarrassed by it. I never would tell people that I didn't finish high school."

Their families called officials at Simon Gratz, and the school agreed to give the former honor students diplomas.

The ladies shared a feeling of pride today with what has become THEIR Class of 2009. Dorothy celebrated with her husband, who bought his Class of '41 ring before he too quit school to help his family during the Depression, and with her 21-year-old granddaughter Katelin Janicz, who just graduated from college.

"It's very exciting for both of us," said Katelin. "I'm a little emotional. It means so much to her."

The 91-year-old Marion, a widowed, self-described artist who has again found love, will continue celebrating an otherwise fulfilled life. She drives, bowls, and takes yoga and creative writing classes.

"Nothing's going to stop this dynamo," said her daughter April Apfelbaum. "She's impossible to hold back. So it's fabulous."

"I always wanted to be a bubble dancer," said Marion. "But I'm not going to make that. So instead I'll go to college."

Gratz hopes to fulfill similar dreams deferred in graduations to come.

Follow Action News on Twitter

Get Action News on your website

Follow Action News on Facebook

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.