At 89, Whitehall man receives high school diploma

Arthur Ihrig will celebrate his 90th, 'graduation' Saturday

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"Never say never" could be the anthem of Arthur Ihrig, who turns 90 on Sept. 13.

The Whitehall man has been awarded an honorary high school diploma by the Keystone Oaks school board.

The diploma reads "Dormont High School," which would have been Mr. Ihrig's alma mater had he graduated in 1942. The high school became part of Keystone Oaks School District in 1966 when students from Dormont, Green Tree and Castle Shannon were merged.

The award came during a school board meeting earlier this month.

"I never thought I would get one," Mr. Ihrig said of the diploma, which states he is being recognized "for outstanding achievements in the U.S. Army."

Mr. Ihrig received the honor as part of a program called "Operation Recognition," which allows districts to grant diplomas to honorably discharged veterans of World War II, the Korean War or the Vietnam War who did not graduate because they entered the military.

Family members in attendance were his son, Bruce Ihrig; wife, Lori of North Huntingdon; and daughter Marsha Grabowski of Zelienople.

"It was very moving," Ms. Grabowski said.

Mr. Ihrig had just completed his junior year of high school when his father, William Ihrig, died suddenly.

As was common practice at the time, Mr. Ihrig quit school to earn money for his family -- his mother and three siblings.

"We had a home and nothing coming in. I had to do something," he recalled.

Mr. Ihrig got a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad in Conway, Beaver County, and was drafted a year later into the U.S. Army as World War II raged.

His service began in the medical corps in England, during which he tended to the first casualties of D-Day. He also spent time as a military police officer in France and Germany in the waning months of the war.

"I got shot at so many times I don't know how they missed me," he said.

After his discharge, he returned to the Pennsylvania Railroad, then worked at J&L Steel as a conductor on its subsidiary Monongahela Connecting Railroad. He retired as a mechanic for Allegheny County.

While residing in Brentwood for most of his life, Mr. Ihrig raised three children with his first wife, Lucy. After her death, he raised a total of four children with his late wife, Patricia.

On Saturday, what would have been his 60th wedding anniversary with Patricia, about 80 family members from throughout the nation will come to Brentwood VFW Post 1810 for a combined birthday and graduation party for Mr. Ihrig.

There the new graduate's diploma will be exhibited with other photographs and mementos.

As for his fellow recent high school graduates -- the 18-year-olds -- Mr. Ihrig, who continues to drive and takes no medications, offers this advice: "Eat your spinach and your fish," he said. "You are what you eat."

education - neigh_south

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:


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