Nicholas Druga graduated from high school when he was 95 years old.
In 2012, his family discovered that Mr. Druga never finished 12th grade. Two years later, he was presented with an honorary degree from Pittsburgh Allderdice High School. The diploma, which was one of his proudest accomplishments, came a year before he died.
Described as a “worker bee” by his children, Mr. Druga raised all four of them in a house full of books and encyclopedias.
Mr. Druga died Sunday from congestive heart failure. He was 96.
His life ended in the same place it started: Greenfield. He was born to Michael and Anastasia Druga. He enrolled initially at Allderdice, but transferred to a trade school in 10th grade in order to become a carpenter. But in March of Mr. Druga’s senior year, the St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936 thwarted graduation. By the time the school reopened in the fall, he was already employed.
Six years after that spring, he enlisted in the Army and landed in Normandy a month after D-Day. Mr. Druga fought as a cannoneer in four battles, and according to his daughter, was awarded four Bronze Star medals for his bravery. But he didn’t talk about it until one of his grandsons asked him about it for a school report.
“His generation didn’t really talk about the war, so that was the first time we knew anything about it,” said his daughter, Angela Held of Murrysville. “His infantry lost a lot of guys.”
But Mr. Druga was one of the lucky ones, although he once got a piece of shrapnel in his boot. After the war, he was immediately discharged from the Army.
“He always said he had more important things to do, which were to go home and get married and have the four of us,” Mrs. Held said. “That was why he survived World Ward II.”
Returning home, Mr. Druga met his wife, Rosemarie. They both lived a section of Greenfield known as the run and went to the same church. On their 66th anniversary, she stood with him as he received his high school diploma.
Mr. Druga occupied many professions — such as a taxi driver or a salesman — but especially valued his work as a foreman with the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
An avid gardener and “tinkerer,” Mr. Druga distributed tomato and pepper plants to his family, and fixed their toasters at his basement work bench.
Every year, the the Drugas would bring together their four children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren for Christmas Eve — 26 people in total.
And each June, a large group gathered to celebrate Father’s Day. But instead of accepting presents, Mr. Druga, or “DiDi,” took everyone out to eat. Every Father’s Day, he would proudly pick up the check.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Druga is survived by children Nicholas Druga of Allison Park, Rosalie Wilks of Doylestown and Natalie Brooks of Crafton.
A funeral of Divine Liturgy will be held at 10 a.m. today at St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church.
Emma Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3778.