Reba Williams epitomizes the saying “better late than never.” At age 106, she is prepping to  receive her high school diploma.

Born in 1907 in Germantown, Pa., she moved to the central Ohio town of Mount Vernon as a child. It was there that she attended high school, and would have belonged to the graduating class of 1925 or 1926.  She never received her diploma because she refused to complete a final assignment which called for her to read a particular book. The school was willing to allow Williams to read the book over the summer to get her diploma, but she declined. “[She] said the book was not worth reading and she’d already read it once and didn’t like it and wasn’t going to read it again,” her daughter, Lavata Williams, said. “My grandmother told me the story more than once.”

Not graduating never stopped Williams from finding work. She held down a job as a cook at Malabar Farm from 1943 to 1957. The location stands as the state’s only working farm and park.

Today she lives with her daughter, who is 78.

A retired English teacher raised an inquiry into Williams’ diploma, after reading a story about her this year. “It seemed like a nice thing to do and although I never knew her personally it seemed like something that was overdue,” said Fred Daily, whose wife was the one that reached out to the Mount Vernon Board of Education for Williams. The board made the motion to approve the disbursement of the diploma on Feb. 18.

It is not clear yet if Williams will be presented the diploma via a public ceremony, or if it will be mailed to her.

Photo:  Dave Polcyn/

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