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98-year-old woman gets high school diploma

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 1:00 p.m. CDT

ROCKFORD (AP) — One thing in particular has bothered Violet Toscano during her nearly century-long life: She never received her high school diploma after dropping out of school to help her family during the Depression.

That regret was remedied in part on Friday when the 98-year-old Rockford woman donned a bright red cap and gown to receive an honorary diploma at a ceremony filled with with "Pomp and Circumstance."

The Rockford Register Star ( reports that Toscano was supposed to have graduated with the Rockford High School class of 1934. But she left one semester short of her graduation to take a job at National Lock Co., so she could help provide for her family.

"Back in the days of the recession, you take the job," Toscano's nephew, Gordon Friske, explained to the paper.

Friske's wife, Lois Friske, wrote a letter to interim Superintendent Robert Willis explaining what happened and describing Toscano's love of learning.

Toscano is a math whiz who can crunch numbers in her head. She loves to read and tries to teach French to residents at the care center where she lives. She's been known to correct people who improperly use "who" and "whom," and she keeps up on current events.

During Friday's ceremony at Alden Debes Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, Willis said he hopes all students become lifelong learners like Toscano.

Dressed in her cap and gown and holding a bouquet of red roses, Toscano posed for photos with her family. Other residents and staff cheered as she entered the dining room to the sounds of "Pomp and Circumstance."

"You no longer have to say that you never graduated," Lois Friske told her "Aunt Vi."

Toscano's family said they plan to frame the honorary Rockford High School diploma and put it on her wall.

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