Veteran gets diploma 72 years later
Friday, June 26, 2015
By RON GOWER TN Correspondent
World War II forced thousands of young men to leave high school before they could graduate.

William J. Tini Sr., who attended the former Coaldale High School, was among them.

He left school at the age of 17 or 18 he isn't sure exactly of the age when he was drafted in 1943.

On Thursday, Tini, who is now 89, was awarded a diploma during a meeting of the Panther Valley School Board.

Jeff Markovich, board president, said Tini is probably the oldest person to ever graduate from the school.

Tini's daughter, Pearl Tini-Cwiertnie, and granddaughters, Vicky Cwiertnie and Chrissy DeMaura, brought him to the board meeting from his residence in Delaware County.

Cwiertnie arranged the surprise when she learned about the "Operation Recognition" program.

Markovich said Tini, who will turn 90 in August, is the fourth World War II veteran who left Panther Valley area schools early to fight in the war, to receive a diploma.

As Markovich presented the diploma to Tini, his daughter placed a mortarboard on his head.

"I want to thank everyone for attending here," he said.

He then broke down in tears when he returned to his wheelchair and looked at the academic accolade.

Afterward, Tini said, "I never thought I'd come to this point."

Four members of the Panther Valley Jr. ROTC participated in the presentation. Leader Noah Easterly carried the American flag. Sarah Markovich carried the state flag, and McKenzie Lazar and Mary Lazar carried rifles.

Tini is the son of the late Gaetano and Lena Tini. His father worked in the coal mines.

Before Thursday's board meeting, Tini and his family members stopped at his former house in Coaldale.

The current owner of the house invited him inside.

He then toured the Number 9 Mine Museum in Lansford.

During World War II Tini served in several European countries, including France, Germany, Belgium and Holland. He said the toughest events were in Holland.

He served in the field artillery with 105 mm howitzers, and completed special service on ships transporting troops.

When in Holland, Tini said he met the queen, although he can't recall her name.

"She was adorable," he said. "She showed me great respect because I was an American."