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After 63 years, he gets his diploma

An Inverness man takes advantage of a state program to award World War II veterans high school diplomas.

By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2001


INVERNESS -- Louis Dolbow is an 80-year-old veteran of World War II. He was part of Company B, 124th Infantry, 52nd Brigade, 31st Division of the U.S. Army.

Dolbow was 14 or 15 when he joined the Florida National Guard. He was in ninth grade at North Side Vocational School in Miami. He was living with his grandmother and an aunt. It was 1938. The country was in a depression.

Dolbow was working nights and trying to attend school by day. The Army seemed like a good option. His buddies thought the same thing.

Then there was war.

In 1940 he was mobilized into the regular Army. He stayed in five years as an instructor in combat techniques. Dolbow never finished high school.

In more recent years, he was at the Citrus County office of Veterans Affairs. He mentioned to former veterans services officer Royce Carter that he regretted never finishing high school.

"One thing I'd like to do before I die," Dolbow told Carter, "and that's get my high school diploma."

Carter immediately opened a drawer and handed Dolbow an application for just that: a high school diploma.

The Florida Legislature previously has passed a law allowing the education commissioner to award standard diplomas to World War II veterans whose high school educations were disrupted because of military service.

To be eligible, students must have started high school between 1937 and 1946 and been scheduled for graduation between 1941 and 1950. They also must have been inducted into the armed forces between Sept. 16, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1946, and later received an honorable discharge.

The program was initiated when a Florida school district called Tallahassee to report another state was operating a similar program, according to Joann Carrin, deputy communications director with the Department of Education.

The commissioner of education at that time, Tom Gallagher, agreed it was a good idea and set the program in motion.

Dolbow said he received his diploma about seven months ago. It is framed and ready for hanging, according to Katie, his wife of 58 years.

"It hasn't even had a chance to get moldy," Dolbow said.

There are 31 Citrus County residents who now have diplomas through the World War II Veteran High School Diplomas program. There are 2,148 statewide.

The Citrus veterans are invited by the Citrus County School District to be recognized at the May graduation ceremonies at the local high schools. Any veteran interested is encouraged to call 726-1931, ext. 2245, to request a school or particular graduation date.

Applications for veteran diplomas are available at Citrus County Schools District Services, 1007 W Main St., Inverness, FL 34450.

-- Information from the Citrus County School District was used in this story.

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