A Graduation 86 Years in the Making

ELEANOR, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Lawrence Davis was 16 years old and the first drum major in Buffalo High School's marching band.

He also was determined. When he was told he was too young to join the United States Armed Forces at 16, he took matters into his own hands.

"I was born in 1927. I rubbed the seven off and put a six there. I had the girl at the telegraph office type a six in there," Davis explained.

It wasn't just that easy, but after a few different trips to a few different recruiting places and county offices he was accepted. Looking back today, his greatest accomplishment was during World War II.

"Well, I guess making what little contribution I could to defeat those birds."

He was just a child when he sailed off on the USS Reno.

"I seen that ship. I hadn't hardly been out of the town of Buffalo and I looked up at that ship and thought, 'Oh boy you made a mistake!' "

"We sailed into Pearl Harbor, and that is where we got supplies and that is where I celebrated my 17th birthday, and from then all hell broke loose, he explained. "And that is when I grew up to be a man."

Monday night as a great-grandfather, Davis got to do something he missed as a part of his childhood: accept his high school diploma.

Monday afternoon, his friends and family surprised him by gathering to celebrate his graduation -- 68 years later.

It all started back when he decided to move to Florida two years ago. He took a trip to see family and he made a fateful statement.

"I opened my big mouth and said, 'Man, I would give anything if I could graduate with the first graduating class and get my diploma.' "

Monday night at Buffalo High School's graduation his family, school leaders and the state made it happen.

"I would like to apologize to the senior class at Buffalo High School for not being able to attend their prom," he laughed.

Humor keeps the 86-year-old sharp and young.

To his classmates 68-years his junior:

"I want to leave a little word of wisdom: don't be angry at anything and love everything."

Advice from a man who has clearly done things on his own schedule. Not a minute too soon, and not a minute too late.

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