EDITORIAL — John Garofalo’s lead is one all people, especially teens, could learn from

Lyndhurst High School Class of 1945’s John Garofalo discusses the joys of finally receiving his high school diploma — 77 years later with his daughter, Beverly Grapkowski and daughter-in-law, Debbie Garofalo.

This world could really use a few more people like John Garofalo. And if you read last week’s edition of The Observer, you already have a head start on the “why” part of that statement.

Back in 1945, when he was just 17, Garofalo, a lifelong resident of Lyndhurst, like many of his peers, was sent off to World War II. He was one of countless young men and women who were part of what Tom Brokaw aptly coined the “The Greatest Generation,” also the title of a book he wrote (somehow 24 years ago.)

As luck would have it, Garofalo left Jersey for the war a mere two weeks before the Class of ’45 was to get its diplomas. Talk about awful timing. 

And, throughout the next 77 years, Garofalo, who had children who got their high school diplomas at the same high school, lived knowing that though he was a graduate, the sheepskin was never in his possession. 

While it may not seem, like a big deal to some, it was a huge deal to John. After all, in the years prior to heading off to war, he worked his tail off as a student — and that certificate would have served as a reminder of just how much it does take to earn a diploma.

And yet now, all these years later, he finally does have the proof … proof that even though as a member of the Greatest Generation he sacrificed so much for this country, he still did possess what so many do take for granted — that high school diploma.

Now, why does the world need more people like John Garofalo? Well, it’s just past graduation time. While many seniors got their diplomas in the previous few weeks, not everyone did — whether it’s because of not passing all courses, or dropping out and opting for something else, etc.

But Garofalo is a reminder that sometimes, it takes 77 years to get that diploma. If a teen reading this got a blank enclosure — don’t give up. Go to summer school, deal with it, and walk away with your sheepskin, even it’s a few months later.

If you dropped out, you can still earn a General Equivalancy Degree, something that holds just as much weight as a regular diploma. 

Remember: John Garofalo proved it’s never too late. We can all learn from a man from the Greatest Generation. And are we ever fortunate to have learned who he is.  ­ — CANESSA

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.