WWII veteran from Mass. receives his high school diploma – at 95

Navy veteran Peter Decareau, 95, holds the honorary diploma.


By BRIDGET TURCOTTE | Daily Item, Lynn, Mass. | Published: April 13, 2019

SAUGUS (Tribune News Service) — World War II veteran Peter Decareau linked arms with his two sons, rose to his feet, and recited the  pledge of allegiance ahead of his graduation ceremony at the Roby Administration Building Thursday.

The U.S. Navy veteran left Saugus High School to serve in World War II. Now 95 years old, his eyes glistened as he received his diploma.

The ceremony was held in the same building where he attended elementary school nine decades ago.

Decareau, who grew up on Central Street with eight siblings, left school in 1942 to serve in the Second World War. He was 17 years old and 120 pounds.

"I left before I graduated," he said. "I was old enough to know better, but I didn't."

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he knew he wanted to join. And he didn't want to wait.

While some of his memories aren't as clear as they once were, he recounted in detail the day he requested his father sign papers to allow him to enlist before his 18th birthday.

He spent the next four years on four ships. He served in the invasion of Africa, invasion of Sicily, and the Battle of Okinawa.

"I was in Japan when they signed the treaty," he said.

His sister ship went down during his first invasion. Sailors on his ship saved 50 lives as buzz bombs zipped past them, but 300 people died, said his son, Paul Decareau.

At the time, Peter Decareau had greater worries than finishing high school.

"I didn't even think about it," he said.

But as he studied his name printed on his honorary diploma, cased in Sachem red, his eyes gleamed. His family and neighbors, who he admitted were like family, surrounded him as his WWII hat was replaced with a graduation cap.

"It's quite an honor to (be) here today," he said. "Ninety-five years. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."

The diploma will be displayed in the front room of his Burlington home, beside his medals and the ashes of his late wife, Hazel.

"A simple thing like this – it really means a lot," said his son, Peter Decareau Jr. "I'm proud today. I'm proud every day."

Peter Decareau said he hopes to cross the stage at the Saugus High School graduation ceremony this spring.


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