Elderly retiree gets his diploma, looks forward to next chapter of life

Graduation is a rite of passage that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood, but for one member of the Class of 2014, the day symbolized much more.

Richard Johnson, in particular, has a message for this year’s graduating class.

“Keep going ahead, never quit, keep going!”

But his words aren’t only for his classmates, he’s also talking to himself.

The 73-year-old Waimanalo resident is still on a high after receiving his high school diploma.

“I’m very proud of myself,” Johnson said, “because I made that happen, and when you can do that, you did your job!”

Johnson retired from Meadow Gold Dairies 11 years ago, but retirement wasn’t for him. He was bored at home. so he decided to finish something he started decades ago.

It was time to go back to school.

“I did it for my brother,” he said.

KHON2 News first did a story on him back in 2004, a year after his twin brother had died. Both men had learning disabilities and dropped out of school after the third grade.

But Johnson was focused on his goal to learn to read and write. He pushed forward and attended adult school classes at the Waimanalo Public and School Library, and eventually, Kalaheo High School.

Last month, after 11 years of schooling, he passed the required tests to earn his GED.

Johnson’s life-long dream had come true. “I was so happy driving home that night,” he said, “cheering for myself!

“Actually, I thank the Lord for helping me.”

“He did all of his homework assignments,” said Johnson’s teacher Michael Braham. “He did all the readings for the course. He was pumped up all the time!”

But Richard Johnson’s dream got sweeter when he was asked to speak at his commencement ceremony.

“Don’t give up on your education. Keep on going, it’s never too late!”

Johnson now has 14 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. When asked how does it make him feel to be able to read to his grandchildren, he said “Proud. Real proud.”

And like other graduates, the 73-year-old is preparing for the next chapter in his life.

“I’m working to see if I can go to college. That would be the next dream to me.”

And why not? His life story is still being written.

For more information about the Department of Education’s Adult Education Program, click here.

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