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77 years later, New Jersey WWII veteran John Garofalo finally graduates from high school

LYNDHURST, NJ — A dream has come true for a 95-year-old World War II veteran from New Jersey.

As CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported on Thursday, he finally graduates from high school.

John Garofalo recently received an honorary degree from Lyndhurst High School.

In 1945, when Garofalo was 18, he enlisted in the navy just two weeks before graduation and therefore never received his diploma. He served for a year then came home, got married, opened a store and played saxophone in a band.

On a recent birthday, he told his family that he was sorry he didn’t graduate, so he and his family went to work.

“So he went to the board of directors of [education] and they tried at that time to look for the records and they couldn’t find them, so they really had no evidence that he was in fact a student at Lyndhurst High School,” his daughter Mary Pitera said.

It took years to find proof that Garofalo had graduated. His granddaughter Stephanie Pitera eventually found a music program posted online from 1945 that included her name.

So how did you feel after waiting 77 years?

“Oh my God, I can’t begin to tell you how it was. It was amazing,” Garofalo said.

“I cried because I felt, I felt so, so happy that it finally happened to him, because he said it was the only thing missing in his life. He has everything else He says, ‘I have everything.’ He says, ‘I just never got a degree,'” Pitera said.

The family even found him a cap and a dress, but it was forbidden.

“He’s a suit and tie guy,” Pitera said with a laugh.

“So I put a picture of him with me at my graduation, and then we took a picture of me with him at his graduation, so it was really special, really wrapped up,” Stephanie added. Pitera.

Garofalo has six children, 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

What is his secret for a long life?

“Don’t stand still. Sometimes I would do three jobs in one day,” Garofalo said.

As for his diet, he said there’s nothing he doesn’t eat, adding, “Candy bars, everything! I eat everything!”

And he also likes to dance.

Asked about retirement, Garofalo said he was not retired, and now that he has his degree, he might find a job.