JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania — Francis William Joseph Sutor is officially a graduate of Greater Johnstown High School.
His degree was awarded posthumously in a brief ceremony at a school board meeting on Tuesday.
Frank – “dad” to yours truly – reportedly graduated in the mid-1940s, but instead left school early to join the Navy during World War II. And now he is the latest recipient of a degree from Greater Johnstown thanks to its program to recognize students who left school to serve their country in the military.
Records show he spent seven years in the Navy and Reserves. Off duty, he worked as a butcher and salesman, spending time with Armor & Co. and Morris Paper Co., and enjoyed watching baseball and football, talking about politics and history, swimming, dancing, reading, cooking, playing cards and golf, shooting pool, taking jewelry lessons as a young man, bowling, cracking jokes, and being a member of St. Therese Roman Catholic Church.
Most important were his friends and family.
Frank was the husband of Margaret (Fatula) Sutor; father of Phyllis (married to Glenn Hajnos), Patricia (married to John Taylor) and David; grandfather of Amanda Hajnos (married to Chris Zeh), Adam Hajnos (engaged to Erika Friedlander) and Eric Taylor; brother of Joseph, Anna, Anthony, Helen Karas, Mary Fisher and Dorothy Tripoli; and uncle of numerous nieces and nephews.
He’s also now the namesake of an almost 2-year-old great-grandson he never met, but who carries on his spirit – Carson Francis Zeh – and there’s a great-granddaughter on the way. , which could be born the same day. this article is published.
The diploma program is open to anyone who did not graduate from Greater Johnstown due to joining the military.
All the individual or loved one needs to do is contact the school district (814-533-5670) or Conemaugh Valley Veterans ([email protected]) to begin the process. In addition, basic military records may be obtained from the Cambria County Recorder of Deeds or Veterans Services offices, or from the National Archives online database at archives.gov/veterans.
A handful of people have gone through the retroactive graduation process in recent years.
“It’s really a program to recognize the men and women who have left school to serve,” said Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent Amy Arcurio. “We recognize how valuable the education they received while serving was, and the education beyond the classroom and the value of that.”
Personally, I want to thank Arcurio and Josh Hauser, a local veterans advocate, for their help in securing this recognition for my father. Arcurio walked me through the school district process. Hauser, as a favor, searched for the discharge papers that helped fill in some gaps in the story of a man who never spoke much about his military service.
There were shared snippets of being a cook, often getting seasick, hitchhiking in his uniform, once waiting for hours for Ted Williams to show up at a baseball exhibition and his reaction to receiving a letter informing him of his reactivation for what became United States service during the Korean War era. And, for the rest of his life, Frank kept a single wartime “victory” Philippine peso that still exists today.
Born Dec. 10, 1926, to his parents, Joseph and Anna Sutor, living in the Cambria City neighborhood of Johnstown, Frank attained the rank of petty officer third class in 1944, according to military records.
Honorable discharge papers show he completed two years of high school, so there were no senior photos of Frank in any yearbooks around the time he would have graduated, although there are portraits of her sister Dorothy (class of 1943) and her brother Anthony. (1946).
But our family has diplomas commemorating his graduation from St. Stephen’s School (grade eight) in 1941 and Garfield High School in 1943, taking him to grade 10, which was the equivalent of two years of schooling secondary on the Navy document.
As World War II raged across the world, the college’s 1943 motto was “Keep freedom a reality; not a memory.
He joined the Navy right after dating Garfield. A separate search at archives.gov provided information that his cycle date was May 1943, which Hauser called the time “when Uncle Sam started paying him to be a sailor”.
And, like a lot of young guys did back then, it looks like either Frank or the recruiter (or maybe both) lied a bit about his age, listing his birthday exactly a year earlier than he was not – he claimed to have been born on December 10, 1925, according to his discharge papers from 1952.
“It’s incredibly common to see discharge papers from World War II and Korean veterans that have the wrong date of birth,” Hauser said. “If it’s noticeable, within a year, I can tell you exactly why. I’m only speculating, but that’s why they did it because they wanted to serve. They weren’t old enough.
Frank was one of 16 million Americans to join the military during World War II. Almost all are gone now. Dad died in 1999.
Those of us who are still here are obligated to keep the memory of their sacrifices alive. For a small part, we got a high school diploma for Francis William Joseph Sutor, knowing full well that he would almost certainly never want the attention of even a brief ceremony or an article in the newspaper.
So with all that said, we love you, Dad, Grandpa, Frank… happy graduation.