FREDERICKTOWN – Up until two days ago, 92-year-old Ruth Elaine Brown Ross said she had “one regret” in her life, never receiving her high school diploma. On Friday evening, that changed. Ross was among 95 students who graduated from Bethlehem-Center High School.
“I waited a long time for this,” Ross said after receiving her diploma to a standing ovation. “I’ve never felt any better at any moment in my life. I finally got to fulfill this dream, and my family helped me do it.”
How she came to be a member of the Class of 2014 began a few months ago, when she overheard someone talking about a high school dropout. Ross said it gave her a “feeling of emptiness,” that one can’t understand unless they’ve gone through it.
“I decided I wanted to see what I needed to do to get my diploma,” Ross said. With the help of her granddaughter, Randi Marodi, the school district was contacted and Marodi said she was surprised to learn it still maintained the records of East Bethlehem Township High School where Ross attended.
Seventy-five years ago, Ross completed her junior year with honors. Why she suddenly walked away from her education at that point can be summed up quite simply – she fell in love. And, for the next 66 years, she would be happily married to Forrest “Vance” Ross.
“We had a good life in Clarksville. I never regretted getting married and having a family,” Ross said. “I wanted to be at home with the children and doing my job as a wife.” But, she carried a feeling “deep inside that I wasn’t quite measuring up, to other people that is,” without a diploma.
Marodi gave her grandmother the good news: she could graduate if she completed one task, a senior project essay. Ross wrote about what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression.
Her daughter, Janet Braun, and granddaughter Shannon Davis helped her put it into a video format.
Ross said living through the Great Depression made her a more forgiving and grateful person.
“I try to understand people and what trials they’ve endured,” she said.
Beth-Center High School Principal Aaron Cornell played the video for the graduating class.
“These 94 kids sat there on an extended school day and you could have heard a pin drop. It just gives you goosebumps,” he said. “I wanted them to see it so they knew who she was and so she felt a part of it (the class).
“Your classmates know you,” he told Ross.
Prior to commencement, senior members of the National Honor Society introduced themselves to their new inductee. Based on her grades at East Bethlehem Township High School, Ross was inducted into the NHS Friday morning.
Everyone she encountered at Beth-Center welcomed her, she said, “They just took me and embraced me. I can feel the warmth here.”
Classmate and salutatorian Elizabeth Ann Paul summed up the entire evening in one sentence, “It’s a great day to be a Bulldog.”