92-year-old woman to finally receive diploma from Vashon Island High School
VASHON ISLAND, Wash. - On Saturday, graduating seniors from Vashon Island will be receiving one final lesson - not from a commencement speaker, but from a fellow graduate.
That graduate happens to be 92-year-old Mary Matsuda.
In 1942, she was a junior at Vashon High School. She was in the Honor Society and a member of the Student Council, with nearly straight A's. But all of that was taken away.
"On May 16, 1942, my mother and uncle and grandparents were taken from their homes more or less forcibly," said Matsuda's son, Ray Gruenewald.
Matsuda's children, Ray and Martha, know the story well. The dusty internment camp in California a world away from the family's strawberry farm.
"It's a small community, to this day, and that's something very precious," said Gruenewald.
Matsuda would go on to graduate from a makeshift high school inside the internment camp. She'd then go on to have a very successful life as a head nurse and author.
But, for 74 years, she hit something that always bothered her.
"As soon as somebody suggested she might be able to get her diploma from Vashon High School, then it came out that she had always been wanting it," said Gruenewald. "But she never actually said that until it became a possibility.”
The school's principal Danny Rock said giving Matsuda want she was denied so long ago was a no-brainer.
"So, it was an easy yes," he said.
So, the 92-year-old will finally receive her diploma from Vashon High School - with honors - alongside the class of 2017.
“When they were presented with the notion that their graduation got to include the making right of some wrong, they were extremely excited," Rock said, about the graduating seniors.
“It has been a hurt that is finally going to be addressed," said Gruenewald.
But, Matsuda's children hope, more important that the piece of paper she'll receive, will be the lesson in history, civics, and life she'll give to the students.
"There is a sense of a need for action, and sometimes the action that is convenient, is not necessarily the one that is the right thing to do," said Gruenewald.
Matsuda lives in Seattle now.
Saturday's graduation will start at 6:00 p.m. and will be live streamed on the Vashon Island High School Facebook page.