97-year-old Margaret Thome Bekema was shaking -- not because of her old age or stature, but because the elderly woman was so overcome with emotion.
After more than eight decades of waiting, the grandmother finally received her high school diploma, according to MLive. Her voice quivered as she spoke to the crowd at Yorkshire and Stoneridge Manor senior community:
%shareLinks-quote="I thank you from the bottom of my heart." type="quote" author="Margaret Thome Bekema" authordesc="" isquoteoftheday="false"%
She was handed the honorary diploma by Catholic Central High School principal Greg Deja in a ceremony attended by her loved ones.
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%shareLinks-quote="Detailing the circumstances that prevented her from graduating with her peers in 1932 is still an emotional experience for the white-haired woman." type="spreadWord"%
Bekema had to drop out during her junior year of school in order to take care of her cancer-ridden mother and siblings while her father worked.
%shareLinks-quote="I had to quit school to take over the family ... It was hard, you have no idea how hard that was. I loved high school and I had lots of friends." type="quote" author="Margaret Thome Bekema" authordesc="" isquoteoftheday="false"%
She described dropping out of school at age 17 as a heartbreaking experience. After leaving school, the woman performed clerical work for the armed forces and became a preschool teacher, according to WXMI.
Eighty years later, the grandmother of four finally donned her blue graduation cap and gold honor cords with pride.
%shareLinks-quote="Her life has been one of sacrifice and service ... It has been so encouraging and inspiring for our community because her choices represent all the core values that we teach our students." type="quote" author="Greg Deja" authordesc="Principal, Catholic Central High" isquoteoftheday="false"%
"She is the type of person that whatever life hands her, she just deals with it very graciously ... She does what has to be done and she doesn't complain about it or make a big deal about it, she just does it," one of Bekema's two daughters, Gerri Smith, told MLive
One of Bekema's relatives, Sister Maureen Geary, came up with the idea about bestowing the elderly woman with a diploma. Although the relative had been thinking of the idea for a while, Geary contacted Catholic Central about the plan in August.
"She has been so self-giving all her life," Geary told MLive. It seems appropriate that the community returned the favor to the 97-year-old.
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