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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2004

Bedford: 'Hard knocks' graduate earns his diploma, too

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bernard Nusbaum, front, listens to graduation exercises in the company of his sons, Tim and Marty, rear from left. Bernard Nusbaum, front, listens to graduation exercises in the company of his sons, Tim and Marty, rear from left.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

TEMPERANCE - After graduating suma cum laude from a lifetime spent in the "school of hard knocks," Lambertville resident and World War II veteran Bernard Nusbaum received a diploma from another alma mater last week: Bedford High School.

"It's a pretty good deal. I'm glad to get it," Mr. Nusbaum said with a Bedford High School Kicking Mule now hanging around his neck. "It's only 60 years late."

At 78 and legally blind, Mr. Nusbaum still has a bearish quality to him. His long life, huge family, and successful career has far outstripped the two years he spent as a Navy Sea Bee in the South Pacific toward the end of World War II. He would rather talk about his 10 children or 31 grandchildren, or his years at Jeep than how the Japanese would bomb each airstrip his unit carved out of the Philippine jungle.

A senior at Central Catholic High School in Toledo in 1944, the then 18-year-old got one of those offers in the mail from Uncle Sam that he couldn't refuse.

"I fooled around [in school], got too old, and they drafted me," Mr. Nusbaum said.

His partial color-blindness landed him in the Navy, where he became a truck driver.His partial color-blindness landed him in the Navy, where he became a truck driver.

"I was a carpenter's mate third class," Mr. Nusbaum said. "I did a little bit of everything," in the service.

When the war ended, Mr. Nusbaum came back to his hometown and married his wife, Bernadine, a short time later. They started their large family almost immediately, and the couple still lives in the Secor Road home they have had for nearly 50 years.

Presenting Mr. Nusbaum with his diploma was one of the last "official" acts for former Bedford Superintendent Jim Goebel, who presided over the feat on his last day on the job.

"It put a real smile on the day," Mr. Goebel said. "This is a great thing to be able to do. We want [Mr. Nusbaum] to know how grateful we are as a nation for risking his life over there."

Mr. Nusbaum's son Marty pursued the long-overdue diploma for his father after seeing news stories of other veterans from that era receiving recognition for their accomplishments from what would have been their alma maters. When the elder Mr. Nusbaum received his diploma from Mr. Goebel, the younger Mr. Nusbaum beamed with pride and even choked up a little bit.

"He acted like he didn't care about it, but I know he does," said the younger Mr. Nusbaum, who followed his father into the Jeep plant and still works there. "He deserves this. He should have gotten it a long time ago."



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