Graduation Day

After 71 years, one Tiffin resident’s dream of receiving her high school diploma has come true.

Pauline Heater, 89, of Tiffin, has been recognized as a graduate of the class of 2013 from Columbian High School.

Living in rural West Virginia during World War II, Heater was recruited to work in a defense plant in Baltimore. At the plant, she worked on making aircraft parts. She was fewer than a few months from graduating, said Richard Heater, Pauline’s son.

Her first husband, Richard Bennett, died in 1945, and from there she married Robert Heater in 1946. Pauline continued to work at General Electric in Tiffin and raise a family.

It was always her dream to finally get her diploma, Heater said.

Pauline was able to receive her diploma through a program through the Veteran’s Affairs office.

“She was a hard worker and took care of business,” Richard said. “She never put her needs ahead of anyone else. She definitely deserved this.”

As part of the Ohio Revised Code Chapter, “a high school diploma may be awarded to any woman who left high school during World War II, the Korean Conflict or the Vietnam Conflict, or posthumously to a living relative of a woman, who left a public or non-public school located in any state prior to graduation in order to join the workforce to support her family or to join the war effort, or who left a public or nonpublic school located in any state prior to graduation due to family circumstances and subsequently joined the workforce or war effort.”

Pauline now is a resident of St. Francis Home. Her family brought the diploma to present to her in a frame.

“She was so proud and shows it off to everyone that visits her room,” Richard said.

Pauline’s grandson, Michael Heater, initiated the process of getting his grandmother her diploma. In high school, Michael moved out and lived on his own. He said it was difficult working and going to school on top of paying bills. Pauline said he could move in with her so he would be able to graduate high school.

“To her, education was really important,” Michael said. “She did not regret what she did, but she wished that she had her diploma.”

Michael said when he found out she was eligible, he had to do it for her.

“Without her, I would have not gotten my (diploma). I just needed to do this for her,” he said. “My grandmother means everything to me. She has been through a lot and is a strong, great role model for my daughters.”

Michael served in the Navy for two years during Desert Storm. He said his grandfather served during WWII, and with his grandmother serving the way she did, he felt it was the natural thing to do.

“I just really love her,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from her.”