97 year old receives diploma

A 97-year-old woman has received an honorary diploma from a Michigan high school, eight decades after she was forced to drop out to help her family.

Margaret Thome Bekema finally was able to don a mortarboard and fulfill her lifelong goal in front of her friends and family on Thursday. School administrators from Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids presented her with the diploma at the Yorkshire and Stonebridge Manor senior community in Walker.

“How can I express myself?” Bekema said through the tears. “I don’t know how to express my thanks.”


Bekema would have graduated with the Class of 1936, but she left during her junior year to care for her three younger siblings because her mother was ill with cancer.

“She said her heart was broken when she dropped out and today was just a small part to lift that heart,” Catholic Central principal Greg Deja told the station.

 She said leaving school at age 17 broke her heart and she’s thankful for the recognition.

Grand Rapids is about 160 miles northwest of Detroit.