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REGION District awards diplomas to vets



Published: Tue, November 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Three of the diplomas were posthumous awards.

FARRELL, Pa. -- The Farrell Area School District handed out 10 diplomas, but not to any recent high school graduates.

The school board honored 10 veterans of World War II who left school in the 1940s either because of the draft or to enlist in the military.

The Pennsylvania Legislature created a program called "Operation Recognition" earlier this year, allowing school districts to award diplomas to veterans who left school to serve in that war.

Three of the diplomas handed out Monday were awarded posthumously.

Grateful recipient: Michael Testa, born and raised on Beechwood Avenue but now living in Hermitage, was the last to be handed his diploma. He kissed the document and promised to hang it on a wall.

"I wanted this so bad," said Testa, 75, who quit school in 1943 at 17 to enlist in the Marines. He was discharged in 1946 and returned to classes at Farrell for several months but said he was told by a teacher that he was just wasting his time.

Testa said he quit again and went to work.

"This [lack of a diploma] always bothered me," he said.

James Branca, an employee of the city of Farrell, accepted a diploma on behalf of his late father, Charles Branca Sr. James Branca's mother, Rose Marie Branca, is a longtime Farrell school director but was unable to attend Monday's meeting because of illness.

Terri McCluskey, wife of the late Hugh J. McCluskey, accepted a diploma on behalf of her husband who was drafted at 18 in 1943.

John Nestor, 75, of Hermitage, who grew up in Wheatland and left school at 16 in 1942 to enlist in the Marines just after his 17th birthday, was on hand to pick up his diploma and one for his late brother, Emmanuel, who died two years ago. Emmanuel left school in 1942 when he was drafted by the Marines.

Robert Carl Grande, 77, who still lives in Farrell on Sharon-New Castle Road, left school in 1942 at 18 to enlist in the Army. He said he thought about going back to school after his discharge but decided he needed money and went to work in a steel mill instead.

Richard E. Staul, 75, who now lives in Austintown, left school in 1942 at 16 and enlisted in the Navy as soon as he turned 17.

"I saw a movie about the Navy and that was it," Staul said, recalling his desire to get into the war.

Arthur DeBonis, now of Hermitage, also picked up his diploma. He enlisted in the military at 17 in 1943.

Two recipients could not attend. William L. Caputo of Beechwood Avenue enlisted in the military in December 1944 and Anthony Mancini of Burghill, Ohio, was drafted in 1946 at 18.




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