In the latter part of 1945, Harry S Truman was president, the average price of a new home was $4,600 and 17-year-old Lyndhurst High School senior John Garofalo had just enlisted in the US Navy to serve in World War II.
When Garofalo, one of 11 children, returned from his war-time service, he started working at the A&P on the corner of Kingsland and Stuyvesant avenues in Lyndhurst. he married Jean, and life got busy. Six children, 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren followed.
He finished his career with 27 years working for Wonder Bread.
A recent conversation with his children revealed a family secret though.
Because he enlisted two months before graduation, John, now 95, had never officially received his high school diploma. Unfortunately, phone calls to the schools administration proved fruitless as the family was told records dating back that far could not be found.
Fast forward to current Superintendent Joseph DeCorso getting wind of this dilemma.
He immediately enlisted the help of current LHS Principal Laura Vuono.
“Ms. Vuono’s been in the high school building for quite some time. She knew exactly where to look and found his old record card that actually said ‘left for the Navy,’” DeCorso said.
A proud serendipitous footnote also unearthed a musical program from — you guessed it, 1945 — and it listed “John Garofalo” as a clarinet player in the Lyndhurst High School Swing Band.
With clear proof of attendance at LHS in hand, the decision was made to finally grant John his long overdue high school diploma.
“I grew up down the hook on Sanford Avenue. Everybody knew everyone. My father grew vegetables and my siblings and I would go around town selling them out of a wagon. People would even come from New York to buy my dad’s figs. It was a simpler time. After I returned from the Navy, I got busy raising my family, Garofalo said. “All six of my children attended Lyndhurst High School and received their diplomas, but I never got mine.”
This all changed when Garofalo recently joined the Lyndhurst High School Class of 2022 at their graduation ceremony, and was finally bestowed his elusive diploma — a whopping 77 years later.
“I can honestly say that seeing the smile on Mr. Garofalo’s face as I presented his diploma — after all these years — was the highlight of my career,” DeCorso said.
So what advice can a member of the Lyndhurst High School Class of 1945 impart to members of the Class of 2022? Garofalo, who still actively ballroom dances once a week, said: “Don’t stand still. Work hard for what you want and follow what it is you like to do.”
Timeless advice, indeed.