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Never too late to earn diploma

(ran PT edition)

What do William E. Wynne of Port Richey and Dave Thomas of Wendy's fame have in common?

They both received a high school diploma later in life.

Wynne, 76, said his education at Maury High School in Norfolk, Va., was interrupted in his senior year when he joined the U.S. Army in 1937. He served in the Army for 22 years. He left once but was called back during the Korean War. Before retiring, he taught ROTC at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., and at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. During this time he attended night college at Long Island University and earned 100 credits.

He dreamed of becoming a teacher, but economics and a growing family made it impossible at the time. So after retiring from the Army, Wynne was a retail furniture salesman. He collected college credits, even though he didn't have a high school diploma.

While visiting his brother Charles recently in Chesapeake, Va., Wynne decided to drop in at his old high school.

"It was very nostalgic," he recalled, "going through those same doors as 60 years before."

A counselor at the school said with his credits he might be eligible for a diploma and advised him to write to the Virginia Board of Education.

Wynne said his motivation for following through on that suggestion came after he saw Dave Thomas, who had just received his diploma, on a commercial encouraging young people to stay in school and complete their education.

Wynne received his diploma in the mail dated Feb. 10, 1997.

Now that he is an official high school graduate, Wynne said he just might look into getting an associate's degree.

Wynne dabbles in poetry, and while he is unpublished, he said he put together a collection and printed it for each of his children.

"I have a few poems that I think are pretty good," he said. Wynne writes from inspiration and memories.

Wynne and his wife, June, have lived in Port Richey for 16 years. Their seven children are scattered throughout the United States from Portland, Ore., to New York state to Florida. They have 21 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.