In Hays and many other communities throughout the region, it is not uncommon at commencement exercises for relatives to be in the same graduating class.
Twins and triplets, first cousins, second cousins, step- and half- brothers and sisters can abound thanks to multiple generations remaining in their homesteaded community as well as blended families.
We believe Hays High School’s Class of 2016 might have set some sort of cross-generational record, however. Three related class members — Anna Pfeifer, Caleb Pfeifer and Emily Ricke — will go down in history as graduating with Elmer Brull, their great-great-uncle.
That is not a typo. But it is an amazing story about lifelong learning and completing chapters, regardless of how long they take.
The 89-year-old Brull of Houston recently was prevented from enrolling in college because he couldn’t produce his high school diploma. Two months before he was to graduate from Hays High School in 1945, he left to join the Merchant Marines. A member of what later would be called the Greatest Generation answered his call to duty for a country still fully engaged in World War II.
Brull never made it back to Hays to collect his diploma until last week. His daughter Terry Wemhoff of Texas discovered the Operation Recognition Veterans Diploma Program, which allows schools to award diplomas to those who left school in order to serve their country. She contacted HHS Principal Marty Straub, who tried to get Brull here for the ceremony two weeks ago.
“We had to make this happen,” Straub said in a Hays Daily News story. “We decided that it would be really cool if Elmer could participate in our ceremonies.”
The plan was amended upon discovering Brull couldn’t make it for the May 15 commencement. Instead, Brull was the star of his own graduation ceremony last Friday in the 12th Street Auditorium.
After receiving his diploma from USD 489 Superintendent Dean Katt, Brull said: “I’m really proud to be here today. I’m glad to accept this diploma. I’m ready for it. After 71 years I guess I should be.”
After 71 years since he last walked the halls of the Rockwell Building, it seems trite to wish him luck and remind him: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Still, we’ll do it. We can’t think of many 89-year-olds who even would care about collecting a diploma from so long ago. Elmer Brull sounds as if he’s planning for the future. We wish him well with whatever that turns out to be.
Brull serves an important reminder not only for the Class of 2016 but everybody in our readership area. Take life one day at a time and try to do your best with each sunrise you’re blessed to see.
He decided that soon he’ll be another year older — and he could be 90 with a high school diploma or he could be 90 without one. He chose the former.
We salute Hays High School’s newest — and oldest — graduate, Elmer Brull.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry