Get FREE tickets to the 10/21 Travel Show - use code TSFWP at checkout

West Hartford Awards WWII Veteran High School Diploma 71 Years Later

Standing in his former high school building Wednesday morning, Edward P. Keesler was presented his high school diploma 71 years after he should have walked across a stage with his fellow members of the Class of 1946.

“I got a diploma,” Keesler said with a smile, looking down at the diploma case in his hands. He offered gratitude to the crowd at Wednesday morning’s ceremony by saying thank you in Chinese.

Keesler, 89, grew up on New Britain Avenue in the Elmwood section of town. He attended Hall High School in the current town hall building where he ran track, played football and served on the student council.

But in 1946, he was drafted into the Army and ultimately served in the Marines as a private first class.

“I was over in China to get the Japanese out,” Keesler said.

He was stationed overseas from November 1946 to March 1947, and was honorably discharged in September 1947.

He received the Good Conduct Medal, the CT Wartime Service Medal, the Honorable Service Lapel Button and the Marine Corps Discharge Button.

Assistant Superintendent Paul Vicinus said less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans actively serve in the military.

“The call to service is answered by a small number of brave men and brave women,” Vicinus said. “The call to arms and service during a period of war is answered by only a fraction of those in uniform.”

Superintendent Tom Moore said that those gathered should honor Keesler now and for his sacrifice as a teen.

“I can’t help but think we should honor the man that Edward became and the service he gave, but we can’t forget that today’s ceremony is replacing the commencement of a young boy,” Moore said. “I have nothing but admiration and thanks from the town of West Hartford and from our schools, not to the man who sits in front of us, but to the boy who answered that call.”

Keesler returned to Connecticut and opened and ran Kanco Spirits on Main Street in South Windsor for 24 years before moving to Manchester.

His son Edward P. Keesler Jr. of Bolton and daughter Donna Vaslet of Windsor sat by him through the ceremony, which was attended by more than 40 people, including school and town staff and police officers.

Keesler asked local officials about receiving his diploma after learning about a World War II veteran in Pennsylvania who left high school during his junior year.

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
52°