Two sisters, ages 77 and 95, watched as people — including plenty of grandkids — drove by Cache Valley Assisted Living on Monday morning to celebrate their newly earned high school diplomas.
“I wanted to graduate, so I did,” said Wilma Falslev Degn, who turns 96 in January.
Degn recently completed a civics test and became the third of her siblings to earn a diploma from Cache High School this year. Because anti-coronavirus precautions didn’t allow a more routine party, Cache Valley Assisted Living hosted a drive-through party so people could congratulate Degn.
Degn thanked everyone for coming, especially because the pandemic has been hard on residents.
“It’s bad because we can’t go any places or have anybody come,” Degn said. “So it was kind of hard.”
Degn’s brother, LaRon Falslev, earned his honorary diploma at the age of 92 in June and had a similar ceremony at Blacksmith Fork Assisted Living in Hyrum.
“That inspired us,” said Norma Hancey, the 77-year-old sister of Falslev and Degn. “I didn’t graduate, and Wilma didn’t graduate — we both got married. So we wanted to do that, but we just didn’t know how to do it. But then when he did it, then we said, well, let’s do it.”
Working with Niki Johnson of Cache High School’s adult education program, Falslev and Degn took a civics test to earn honorary degrees. Falslev wasn’t able to attend high school at all because he was needed on the farm when his brother joined the Merchant Marines. Degn left during her junior year at North Cache High School to get married, and given her 95 years of age, the high school selected her for this year’s honorary diploma.
Hancey, however, had completed all but the last half of her senior year at North Cache. Johnson had Sky View pull her transcript from 1961, and Hancey was able to complete the coursework for her adult education high school equivalency diploma in October.
“It was wonderful,” Hancey said. “I had to do a lot of tests. Math and English and earth science, which I hated, the earth science. It was about earthquakes and global warming and all that kind of stuff which I didn’t really care about much.”
When Johnson learned that Hancey had earned her CNA at the age of 65, she determined that would meet the science requirement.
“Even though none of them need their high school diploma to go get a job or fulfill some requirement now,” Johnson said, “it’s just great that they still care enough that education matters and they have the desire to do it.”
The siblings have wanted their high school diplomas for a long time.
“Every time you’d go to get a job, they’d say, ‘Have you got your high school diploma?’ And I’d have to say no, and I was sad about that,” Hancey said.
Hancey regularly calls Degn, and she sang her sister the chorus of “If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not” with new lyrics: “Do not weary by the way, wherever you may be. You will have a happier life if you get your high school diploma by 95.”