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Published: Friday, 5/23/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Waite, Woodward honor WWII vets by giving diplomas

Honoree: Army ‘is actually where I got an education’

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jason Kendall, a junior at Waite, pins a flower on Victor Kretz of North Baltimore, Ohio, before Mr.  Kretz receives his diploma. Jason Kendall, a junior at Waite, pins a flower on Victor Kretz of North Baltimore, Ohio, before Mr. Kretz receives his diploma.
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Virginia White dropped out of Woodward High School after the ninth grade and went to work cleaning houses to support her parents and four siblings.

In 1943, Mrs. White — then Virginia Przybysz — volunteered to join the U.S. Army, and was among the military women serving in this country while soldiers were sent to fight in Europe and the Pacific.

On Thursday, Toledo Public Schools presented the World War II veteran with the high school diploma that she did not get more than seven decades ago.

Mrs. White, 91, and Victor Kretz, 89, also a World War II veteran, received the diplomas during the annual Memorial Day Tribute at Waite High School.

After the ceremony, with the diploma cradled in her lap, she said she was thrilled that the document says the degree came from her alma mater.

“She said she always had regretted not finishing high school,” said her daughter, Marcia Balogh.

Mrs. White, of Wyandotte, Mich., said she has no regrets about the decision she made at age 21 to enlist in the Army.

Virginia White receives her Woodward High School diploma from Romules Durant, Toledo Public Schools superintendent, during the district’s annual Memorial Day Tribute at Waite High School. Virginia White receives her Woodward High School diploma from Romules Durant, Toledo Public Schools superintendent, during the district’s annual Memorial Day Tribute at Waite High School.
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The Army, she said, allowed her to travel, live in Washington and Texas, and meet the man, also a solider, whom she would eventually marry.

“The Army was the best years of my life,” she said. “That is actually where I got an education. If I could do it all over again, I still would have joined the Army.”

After the war, she married Arthur White. She worked in several factories before they relocated to Wyandotte, where they raised Mrs. Balogh and a son. Mr. White died in 1986.

A state law enacted in 2001 made it possible for veterans to obtain the diplomas they missed because they enlisted or were drafted into the war. Veterans qualify if they served between Sept. 16, 1940, and Dec. 31, 1946.

Carolyn Yenrick, dean of students at Waite, said the school district awards the diplomas to veterans during the annual Memorial Day Tribute. About a dozen men and women have been honored to date, she said.

Mr. Kretz, who will turn 90 on May 29, was a 17-year-old junior when he dropped out of Waite in the spring of 1943 and joined the Navy.

He was assigned to the USS Coral Sea, an aircraft carrier, until the invasion of Guam, and then did duty on a seaplane tender.

After his discharge, he returned to East Toledo, got married, and moved to North Baltimore, Ohio, in Wood County, where he and his wife raised seven children.

Four of his five sons served in the military. A retired butcher and bricklayer, Mr. Kretz said supporting his family won out over getting a high school degree or equivalency.

He attended the ceremony at Waite with his daughter, Vickie Kretz, and son, Richard Kretz.

“We are thrilled. Not many people live to be 65 and see their father graduate,” Ms. Kretz said.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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