- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - Eighty-eight-year-old Gladys Laune thought she was going to her friend’s birthday party this week, but discovered the celebration was actually a surprise graduation ceremony to award her a long-awaited high school diploma.

The southeastern Nebraska woman donned her North Platte High School blue cap and gown Thursday, nearly 70 years after her father made her quit school during her final semester. Times were tough in the early 1940s in the midst of World War II for Laune’s family of nine children, so she had to drop out to help.

Over the years, Laune expressed sadness about not receiving her diploma, the North Platte Telegraph reported (https://bit.ly/11Cigoj ). Her sister, Ruth Radke, wrote a letter to the district’s interim Superintendent Larry Ramaekers asking him to consider awarding her an honorary diploma.

On Thursday, Laune’s nieces brought out a graduation cap and robe for her at a Hampton Inn meeting room, which she thought was strange but went along with it anyway as they helped her put on the gown. When Laune heard the music to “Pomp and Circumstance” while walking down an aisle in the room, she began to figure it out.

Ramaekers and the school district’s board president handed her a blue folder containing her diploma, dated 1945. Laune began to shed a few tears. She knew what the blue folder contained, but couldn’t read it because of her deteriorating vision.

“I’d rather read if I could, but thank you so much,” she said. Speaking to her family, she said, “You guys are kind of sneaky.”

Throughout the years, Laune raised five children mostly as a single mother. She worked as a waitress for many years, sold insurance for a brief period and then worked in a nursing home until retiring in her 70s. She currently lives with her husband at Thomas Lakes that’s near Ashland.

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