At age 80, Darrell Wade of Liverpool is both the oldest and newest graduate of Ripley High School’s class of 2019.
On Tuesday, a few days after the county’s seniors received their diplomas during graduation, Wade was presented his high school diploma through a program offered by the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance in conjunction with the West Virginia Department of Education. The program was designed for honorably discharged veterans who served during World War II, the Korean War, or the Vietnam Conflict, who did not get the opportunity to complete their high school education.
Wade completed his sophomore year at Gilmore High School in 1954 and then joined the United States Air Force, where he served two overseas assignments as a radar operator. During his time serving his country, Wade also completed requirements for earning a General Education Diploma.
“It’s obvious that from what I’ve read about you today, Mr. Wade, education was important to you,” said Blain Hess, superintendent of Jackson County Schools. “We’re here to honor you today for your great service to our country.”
Since Gilmore High School no longer exists, Wade chose to have his diploma come from Ripley High School, where his daughters attended and graduated.
After his military service, Wade worked and retired from Kaiser Aluminum. Along with his wife of 60 years, Barbara, they raised two daughters, Sue Wade Jacobs of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Alisha Wade of Houston, Texas.
“I never imagined that someday I would be valedictorian at dad’s graduation,” Jacobs joked. “We wanted to say that we’re proud of you, dad. We know that diploma represents something very different than the seniors who walked the stage Friday night.”
“To you, it represents an accumulation of lessons learned throughout your life and a closure on a chapter of your life that was never quite completed,” Jacobs said. “Our family hopes, though, dad, that you recognize that you too are a scholar.”
Because education was so important to Wade, there was never a doubt that his daughters would pursue college degrees. The Wade household became a house divided when one daughter graduated from WVU and another from Marshall, and both have since obtained advanced degrees in their chosen fields.
Wade’s educational journey continued throughout his life , as he is a self-taught musician who plays guitar and sings country music. He is also an accomplished self-taught golfer who has won many tournaments throughout West Virginia, and continues to win club championships at Green Hills Country Club, where he is a member. Wade continues to garden, hunt, complete crossword puzzles, work a part time job and is a jack-of-all-trades.
Of her father’s education, Jacobs said, “You have earned all the credits necessary to be awarded your high school diploma. Your history, geography, and foreign language credits were earned during your military service and overseas deployments. Your science credits were achieved in biology as you gardened and physiology and anatomy as you dressed game after hunting and fishing. Math credits were earned as you took your wages and stretched them, saved them, and accounted for them during tax seasons. Your English credits were earned writing in your journal, working crosswords puzzles, and communicating with countless friends and neighbors. Credits in the arts were achieved while woodworking and teaching yourself to play the guitar. And your P.E. credits? Well, I’m sure your golfing over the past 50 years has earned you enough credits for a college degree. Your 80-plus years of letting life be your teacher and experiences, both good and bad, be your lessons will suffice to earn this diploma.”
Wade is more than a scholar of life. He also is a teacher.
“You have taught us that if you really pay attention to the world around you, everything is our teacher. You have challenged us to experience the joy of creative scholarship in our own lives,” Jacobs said.
Because of Wade’s love of learning through the years and his desire to complete his high school education and obtained the diploma he missed receiving, Jim Mahan, director of secondary education, was contacted to see what, if anything, could be done. Mahan was instrumental in providing the necessary information and reseources to hlp secure the diploma. Wade’s diploma was awarded by Ripley High School since Gilmore High School no longer exists and was presented by Bobbi Ferell, board president, in a ceremony May 28 at the Jackson County Schools Central Office.
“I’d like to say, on behalf of our family, a big thank you to Jim Mahan. He was very instrumental in his guidance and his information he provided to our family to make this happen for our father,” Jacobs said.