‘Better late than never’: Alabama woman, 94, graduates high school

HAZEL GREEN, Ala. — A 94-year-old Alabama woman finally got to turn her tassel, as she received her high school diploma on Wednesday.

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Grace Lee McClure Smith received her diploma from Hazel Green High School in a special ceremony, WHNT reported. She became Madison County’s oldest graduate, walking across the stage at the northern Alabama high school to receive her diploma, the television station reported.

“I am so grateful. Thank you so much. It’s better late than never, isn’t it,” Smith told WAAY.

According to a wedding announcement in The Huntsville Times on Dec. 28, 1943, Smith married Calvin B. Smith, of Harvest, on Dec. 24, 1943, the newspaper reported. Calvin Smith, who also attended Hazel Green High School, enlisted to fight during World War II, AL.com reported.

According to online military records, Calvin Smith was a private first class during World War II. He died on Oct. 20, 2005, five days short of his 80th birthday, online records show.

“She never ever mentioned regretting anything in life,” Grace Smith’s granddaughter, Erin Wilson, told WAAY. “She would never take it back because she absolutely loved my grandfather and that was just what she wanted to do, but I think this was very important to her.”

Officials from Madison County Schools including Director of Public Relations Tim Hall, Hazel Green Principal Quinn Headen and Superintendent Allen Perkins attended Grace Smith’s graduation ceremony, WHNT reported.

Although Grace Smith dropped out of school, she worked as a bus driver in Madison County for more than 30 years, the television station reported.

“She drove me actually on the school bus, so I rode with her to and from school,” Wilson told WAAY. “And she always encouraged me to go to school, make sure I finish school, and now she encourages my girls.”

After years of service, Grace Smith said she was happy to finally graduate.

“I feel like I don’t deserve it,” Smith told WHNT. “There’s a lot more people that are much more deserving than me. I’m just doing my job, love it. I love most of it most of the time. Good times!”