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Jack Fletcher, 86, Graduates 70 Years Late

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Jack Fletcher at his graduation,  May 25 in Spur, Texas.

Jack Fletcher at his graduation, May 25 in Spur, Texas. Photo by NBC News

In one of those cases where life gets in the way of our goals, Jack Fletcher had to wait 70 years before he could graduate from high school. Living in Spur, Texas, Fletcher was in his final year of high school when World War II decided it had other plans for him.

Following the war, Fletcher did some world traveling before settling down in Australia. Yet in May 2012, he made the trip back to Spur to graduate with this year’s senior class.

Fletcher was born in the town of Spur but moved with his family to another town. A tragic accident took the lives of his parents in 1941 and the siblings returned to Spur where they were raised by their grandparents.

When WWII broke out, Fletcher and three of his brothers all volunteered. In addition to his brothers, many of Fletcher’s friends signed up to go right away, too. One in particular joked that he would go help win the war in Europe while Fletcher helped win the war in the Pacific and then they would meet up back at home. Sadly, that friend and six others all lost their lives during the war. Had he not been ordered to report to headquarters just then, he would have died with his buddies in their last assault. The fact that he escaped death bothered him for years.

Following his departure from the military in 1946, Fletcher returned to Spur. He was greeted by David, the family dog, who waited at that corner every day from the time Fletcher left, according to his grandmother.

Not one to stay put, Fletcher hit the road working in the agricultural industry. His work took him all over the world, eventually bringing him to Australia where he helped found the Australian Land and Cattle Co. The company purchased 4.3 million acres of rural land that equaled 11 times the size of Dickens County where Fletcher was born. Though the lack of a diploma didn’t really hold him back, Fletcher always wished he had been able to graduate.

The 86 year old joined the graduating class of 2012 on May 25 as an honorary graduate. He peeked inside the sleeve to make sure the certificate was in there, afraid the school might have been pulling his leg he later joked. He felt right at home standing beside the ten other graduates and tossed his cap in the air when it was over just as his younger peers did. Fletcher says Spur will always be a special place to him.

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