Oregon man to receive high school diploma 60 years late
For most graduates, high school commencement is a time to reflect on the past, and look ahead to the future, and the impact one can make on the world.
Graduation day will be no different for Richard Friess, though he’s sure to stand out from all the other “seniors” who will be receiving a diploma from Bowling Green High School on May 31.
Friess, who turned 80 this year, left Bowling Green High School in 1951 to join the U.S. Air Force. Though he had no high school diploma, he was sent to Edmund Oklahoma State College to learn office procedures. He later was sent to teletype school in Friesing, Germany.
|Richard Friess of Oregon, will receive his
diploma from Bowling Green High School
at a commentcement ceremony on May 31.
Friess, who left high school to serve in the
U.S. Air Force, would have been a member
of the class of 1953. (Press photo by Ken
He used his skills serving in Tripoli, Libya for 18 months. After a brief return to the U.S., spent in Austin, Tex., he was sent to Casablanca, Africa for 12 months. In 1955, he was discharged and returned to Northwest Ohio.
“I had gotten a GED, and I could have gotten my high school diploma then too, but at the time, I really didn’t think about it,” Friess said. Early in 1956, he met Carolyn Jesse in Toledo. They married in August 1957 and have enjoyed 56 years together, raising a son, Toby and a daughter, Tammy. They have two granddaughters, Brittany and Crystal, and two great-grandchildren, Paige and Gavin.
Friess worked for 40 years, retiring from the Pennsylvania-Penn Central-Consolidated Rail Corporation as an office clerk and crew dispatcher in January 1995.
He’s also been an active member of the community, helping with the Oregon Christmas Basket program for some 35 years. “And I’m still working, doing whatever needs to be done,” he said. He recently donated his time and talents helping with the relocation of a backyard playground set for a family in his church.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” he said. “I like helping people.”
It’s clear that, despite the lack of an official high school diploma, he has been successful by all accounts. “I have been truly blessed,” Friess said.
Yet the fact that he didn’t get to graduate with his fellow members of the BGHS class of 1953 entered his mind now and again. “A bunch of the class members meet for lunch once a month,” he said. “At one of our gatherings, I said something about it to one of the classmates and he suggested I call the school.
“So I did and the woman at the school told me I had to call Columbus. After being transferred from one department to another, I gave up on it,” Friess said. “A few days later, the Governor’s Office called me. The man suggested some options for getting a diploma, but I told him I wanted to graduate from Bowling Green High School. It was my school…I played football there.
“Before I could make any more calls, Pat Carney, principal of Bowling Green Middle School called me to tell me he’d set it up for me to graduate Nov. 11,” Friess said. “Days later, the principal of the high school, Jeff Dever, called me telling me he’d set it up for me to graduate with the class of 2013 on May 31.
“Mr. Dever told me he’d put me first in line, ahead of everybody, and that someone special will be presenting my diploma – so we’ll see.” Friess said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been telling everyone, I think that diploma could make me a whole lot smarter.”
In addition to his family, Friess will be joined by a number of his fellow classmates from the class of 1953.
The graduation will be the culmination of a line of “blessings” that started last November when he and his wife went to Cancun with his granddaughter and her family, Friess said.
In January, he was the guest of honor at a surprise 80th birthday party. And on May 22, accompanied by his daughter, he went to Washington, D.C. with Honor Flight Northwest Ohio.
Better late than never…Richard Friess, of Oregon, will receive his diploma from Bowling Green High School at a commencement ceremony on May 31. Friess, who left high school to serve in the U.S. Air Force, would have been a member of the class of 1953.