101-Year Old WWII Vet Gets to Walk in Graduation 80 Years Later

On May 14, 101-year-old WWII veteran Fred Taylor finally walked at his college graduation ceremony, Cornell College’s 2023 graduation ceremony. He missed his class graduation ceremony in 1943 while training to serve in WWII. Eighty years later, Taylor officially received his diploma from Cornell’s 2023 graduation ceremony.

101-year-old WWII Veteran Fred Taylor got to walk in his college graduation ceremony eighty years after the graduation he missed out on due to war.

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“Every able-bodied man and many women were involved in World War II,” Fred Taylor of La Mesa, California, told Fox News Digital. “I think 16 million altogether,” Taylor added. “I have no regrets about going into the service.” He went on, “I really enjoyed flying. My only regret is missing my graduation ceremony, as you normally would end your senior year.”

Taylor’s two hundred Cornell 2023 classmates were excited to share this experience and embraced him as one of their own. Taylor had completed the requirements for his music degree at Cornell College. Still, the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 catapulted the United States into World War II — putting the plans of many in his generation on hold. “On Feb. 19, 1943, of my senior year, the Air Corp Reserves were activated, and we had to leave the college for basic training. So, of course, we missed our graduation ceremony.

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Taylor’s degree was in music. Although he became a long-time music teacher, being unable to attend his graduation ceremony was one of his biggest regrets. After the war, Taylor got married and had one child, Linda. Taylor and his wife were married for seventy-five years. She passed away in 2020. 

Taylor shared with Cornell News a strong memory of what happened on the day he was supposed to graduate.

“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. The Army Reserves 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.”

But earlier this year, Taylor’s daughter, Linda Taylor, a professor emeritus at the University of Miami, contacted Cornell College to see if her father could walk across the stage and finish what he started. She shared with Cornell News that after many years of watching graduation ceremonies, she wanted her father to experience the same thing, so she surprised the 101-year-old with airplane tickets and arrangements to do what he never got to do–walk the stage at graduation.

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

101 is a long life with much experience to share. Taylor told Fox Digital that he doesn’t think he is qualified to dole out advice to his fellow graduates today.” I would just say that they are well-prepared for their future life; they have everything, all the good things, ahead of them. All they have to do is pay attention, do their best work, and be kind to others.”

May we always remember those who sacrificed for our great country.

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