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101-year-old veteran finally walks graduation stage after missing ceremony for WWII service

Graduation Clothes (Circe Denyer/Needxpix)

Fred Taylor, a 101-year-old World War II veteran, celebrated his graduation from Cornell College in Iowa by walking the stage during the school’s graduation ceremony on May 14.

Taylor graduated from Cornell College with a degree in music in 1943, but was unable to attend the graduation ceremony due to his service in World War II. On Sunday, Taylor walked the stage with Cornell’s Class of 2023 — 80 years after he graduated from the school.

The special moment was made possible by Fred’s daughter, Linda Taylor, who surprised him with airplane tickets from California, where he lives, and coordinated with the school to plan his ceremonial graduation walk.

“You know that feeling when you give somebody you love something really special that delights them and delights you even more?,” Linda said in a news release from Cornell College prior to the ceremony. “It’s just going to be a super happy time and for somebody who is closing in on 102, what are we waiting for?”

Fred said he was surprised when his daughter – a college professor herself – told him about the trip, but expressed gratitude and excitement that he would finally walk the stage at Cornell College.

“Linda mentioned this idea a long time ago, but it was a big surprise to me that she had gone ahead and made the arrangements to do it. So, of course, I’m surprised and excited about it,” Fred said.

Fred, a native of Springville, Iowa, recalled his decision to enlist in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

“Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack, I and a number of my friends at Cornell joined the Army Air Corps Reserve because we’d rather be in the Air Corps than a foot soldier,” Fred said. “The Army Reserves, then, were activated in February of my senior year. On Feb. 19, 1943, we had to leave and went to Jefferson Barracks in Missouri for basic training.”

Fred’s father picked up his son’s diploma while he was away at military training across the country. While in training in Colorado, Fred married Peggy Newberg, whom he met at the beginning of his senior year at Cornell.

Fred returned home in 1945 when his military service ended, graduated from Drake College with a master’s degree in music education and began his life with Peggy. The couple was married for more than 75 years, and Fred credits Cornell for the influence the school had on his life.

“Cornell shaped the rest of my life, actually,” Fred said. “For my work and occupation and then meeting Peggy there. I married her and of course, that shaped the rest of my life. The college was extremely important to me.”


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