BETHEL PARK, Pa. - Lawrence H. "Bud" Simon's submarine dodged Japanese depth charges during World War II.
But the thought of marching with Bethel Park High School seniors as he receives his diploma next week 69 years after he was supposed to graduate scares him a little.
Simon, 88, of Pleasant Hills still fits into his Navy uniform and plans to wear it when he receives an honorary diploma from a Navy representative at Bethel Park's graduation exercises on June 15.
He was a member of the Class of 1944 at the former Library High School when he left school in September 1942 to enlist in the Navy and fight in World War II. Seven decades later, the Library school's region is part of the Bethel Park district.
"My vision is going (due to cataracts), and my health is going, and there are a lot of things I couldn't doSimon said. You think and you think ... here I am, I didn't even have a high school diploma. It sounded like a nice thing to add to my repertoire."
Bethel Park school officials for at least a decade have been granting honorary diplomas to veterans who left high school to fight in a war, and who received honorable discharges, district spokeswoman Vicki Flotta said.
Simon will be the second veteran to be awarded a diploma at a regular Bethel Park graduation. Awardees have the option of receiving diplomas by mail or at a public school board meeting.
"It truly is an honor to be able to do this," Flotta said of giving Simon his diploma. "These guys are members of The Greatest Generation. They sacrificed their education to serve their country."
When he joined the Navy, Simon said he volunteered for submarine duty because submariners were paid more than sailors on surface ships.
"The Navy didn't screen men serving on submarines for claustrophobia," he recalled.
"As long as blood was flowing through your veins, they wanted you," he said.
During the war, Simon served on two submarines, the U.S.S. Porpoise and the U.S.S. Cavalla. While on the Porpoise, "We found a couple of (Japanese) tankers and a troop ship and sank them," he said.
Simon was honorably discharged in December 1945. He married and raised his children in West Mifflin, where he was employed as an equipment maintenance worker at Continental Can Co. until it closed in the early 1980s. He then worked part time for a candy supplier and later as a West Mifflin crossing guard until he reached his early 70s.
During that time, he volunteered with archery competitions and worked at archery events in both the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Simon also has been an archery commissioner for local Senior Olympics events.
Simon's wife, Lois, died 41/2 years ago, but his son, Larry Simon of Dravosburg, and daughter, Lynn Edenfield of North Carolina, plan to attend the graduation. Simon has three granddaughters.
This article was written by Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE.
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