An 81-year-old Sapulpa grandmother received her high school diploma in a graduation ceremony that was 63 years in the making. On Friday, her grandchildren, three sons and friends threw a party at the First Christian Church to celebrate.
Hazel Ellis said her sons and grandchildren graduated from Sapulpa High School, but she is the only one of her ten siblings to receive a diploma; so they partied like it was 1951.
In her junior year of high school Hazel married Calvin Ellis. They spent $65 on a wedding ring, and while she was able to get a class right at the time, she never got her diploma.
"I was pregnant by the time school started, and in 1951 you did not go to school pregnant, even if you were married. So I didn't go to school," Hazel said.
Instead she worked as a seamstress, had three sons and 11 grandchildren, but after a dream about wearing a cap and gown, the grandma decided she wanted to be a graduate and went to the Sapulpa superintendent.
"I said, ‘how long do you keep your records,' He said, ‘a long time.' I said, ‘since 1951,' he said, ‘I think so.' They found my records, and found I needed a history and English class," Hazel said.
To graduate she had to write a history paper; it's titled Hazel Ellis: A Life History.
Hazel's husband wasn't a fan of her homework.
"I thought ‘you got to be crazy.' You know, here we are at the end of our lives, really I'm 84, she's 81 and I couldn't believe that," Calvin said. "She insisted, and she pretty well gets her way, anything she wants. I haven't ever told her no."
Neither did the officials at Sapulpa schools.
"Time is not an issue if you want to get it done. Get it done," said Sapulpa Superintendent, Kevin Burr.
She did, and wrote her life story in seven pages, double spaced in Times New Roman.
"About a month later he called and said ‘you passed. You are now a graduate of Sapulpa High School.' So I don't know the grade I made on my test," Hazel laughed.
She passed with flying colors.
The highlight is the cap and gown, the graduation announcement and ceremony are bonuses.
She said this is an example of determination to get the job done at any age.
When I asked her about college, she decided she will go to Hawaii instead.