MORRISTOWN – William “Lyle” Woodcock finally received the slip of paper he has been waiting 60 years to receive — his high school diploma - late last month in front of family, friends and fellow graduates.
Mr. Woodcock was scheduled to graduate from high school in 1953, but he left school when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
The lifelong Morristown resident and octogenarian is the first to admit he has lived a full life. He has sailed around the Great Lakes, hunted game in the Adirondacks and played minor league baseball for the New York Giants organization. He has two children and six grandchildren and been married to his “angel,” Patricia, for over 50 years.
But he said he had always felt lost without his high school diploma.
“To say I got a high school diploma says quite a lot,” Mr. Woodcock said. “In those days, there were a lot of kids that dropped out and never went back to school. They either went to work on the family farm, joined the military or had no interest in pursuing their education.”
When he suffered a heart attack in 1991, he told his wife that he would make it is his mission to graduate from high school.
After nearly a year of classes, Mr. Woodcock received his GED in 1994.
“When I began classes and I sat there with those little kids, I thought to myself, ‘My goodness, why didn’t I get my education sooner?’” Mr. Woodcock said. “With an education you have so many more choices. Today, without an education, you’re very limited to what you can do.”
He finished the GED program at the top of his class and received an award for inspiring other other students, Mrs. Woodcock pointed out.
Mr. Woodcock was recognized by the Morristown Board of Education and received a diploma at the school’s 2014 Commencement Ceremony.
When he stood up to receive his diploma, Mr. Woodcock received a standing ovation from fellow graduates, administrators and the audience.
“My heart was going just like that,” Mr. Woodcock said as he patted his chest rapidly. “To have so many people come up and shake your hands and give you a hug, congratulating you. That was wonderful.”
Members of the senior class of Morristown Central School dedicated a page in their yearbook to Mr. Woodcock. They signed and presented it to him at a special barbecue.
“We are so impressed with the kids in the senior class,” Mrs. Woodcock said. “They were so wonderful.”
The Morristown Sports Boosters also presented Mr. Woodcock with an award for the support he has shown the school’s athletic teams over the years.
“I don’t care much for professional sports anymore, but I love to watch the kids play,” he said. “There is no money involved. I know they are doing the best they can do and they play because they love the game.”
Given all of his accomplishments, the Woodcock Family said they very proud of their father. “When you are young, you think your dad is a superhero,” Mr. Woodcock’s son, Jamie, said. “I’m 39, and I still feel the same way.”