For Wayne McGee, of Oregon, responsibilities to his family and his country kept him from finishing his classes at Clay High School.
McGee, a Korean War veteran, was supposed to graduate in 1947, but finally received his degree from Clay last month from the Oregon Board of Education.
“I quit school in 1946 to help my parents on their farm,” McGee, 83, said. “I had six older brothers and they were all serving in World War II. Someone had to help my parents.”
The family grew wheat, corn and tomatoes as well as raised a few head of cattle on the 30 acre farm, located on Berlin Street. For McGee, family came first at that time.
“I was a junior when I quit school,” McGee said. “I could have gone back, but I had to help Mom and Dad. I always wished I had finished school.”
McGee was drafted into the United States Army on December 18, 1950. He served 18 months and eight days with the 485th Combat Engineer Battalion, in occupied Germany.
He was a combat engineer and served as a demolition expert.
“I did construction work when I originally went in,” McGee said. “I came home and was separated from the Army on December 16, 1952.”
He was honorably discharged from the Army and returned home to work in the family business of Harry McGee Contracting.
He then worked for Columbia Block in 1955 and then for W.A. Gunner and Co., out of Dayton, where he worked on several churches, including the Hope Church of the Nazarene, on Starr Avenue.
McGee later was employed at Acklin Stamping for 29 years, retiring in 1994.
He married the late Mary Ellis (Hartbarger), of Oregon, in 1953. The couple had four children, all Clay graduates: Donald Wayne (class of 1972), who worked for the Oregon Streets Department for 31 years; Jackie McGee, of Oregon (class of 1974), who is retired from Head Start; Dawn Hill, of Oregon, (class of 1976) who is a pastor at Harvest Apostolic Temple, in Toledo, and Gail McGee, (class of 1979) who is currently employed with the Oregon City School District as a bus driver’s helper.
McGee has seven grandchildren, four of whom are Clay graduates, and eight great-grandchildren.
During the school board’s December 18 meeting, Dr. Michael Zalar, superintendent of the Oregon City Schools district, explained that McGee has always been a supporter of the district and its athletic teams. Since 1953 to the present, he has only missed 10 football games against Whitmer and only a few more against other schools home and away. McGee also attends basketball, baseball and softball games.
“You have sacrificed and served your country honorably,” Zalar said while presenting McGee with his diploma. “You have served your family and you continue to serve the schools and community with your support of Clay High School athletics. It is an honor and a privilege to present you with your Clay High School Diploma. Thank you for your continued support of the students in the Oregon Schools.”
Given all of his life’s accomplishments, receiving his high school diploma is at the top of the list, McGee said after the meeting.
“I am very proud and I appreciate what the board has done for me,” McGee said. “I never expected anything like that. It feels so nice to finally have my diploma.”