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Sunday, May 26, 2019

The pastor of Tulsa graduates 6 decades after leaving school

The pastor of Tulsa graduates 6 decades after leaving school
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Of the 1,300 students who graduated from Union High School on May 13, Leo Johnson stood out.
Tulsa is 60 years older than the other graduates who included two of her grandchildren.

Johnson, 77, delighted in surprising the thousands of people who witnessed the ceremony at the BOK Center.

Only a handful knew John's secret before his name was called the superintendent's graduation speech. He kept it, even kept it hidden from the graduate grandchildren sitting shouting away from him.

"It was difficult to control it, I tell you," he told Tulsa World.

But the surprise was worth waiting for. Johnson's grandchildren are part of his inspiration to return to school. I wanted to make the moment so special.

As they grew up, it was difficult for Johnson to encourage them to finish school, knowing that he never did so many years ago. He was afraid that their failure would discourage them. However, when asked about his graduation experience, he told them the truth.

Johnson left his senior year and spent the next 60 years living with grief. According to him, it is a misunderstanding.

In 1959, he played in the soccer team and had two English courses to obtain his diploma. He was about to complete one of those classes when his teacher accused him of plagiarizing his final work, which coincided with another student's word.

That student, says Johnson, had snatched his paper from his locker and copied it, but the professor took him for the culprit. The teacher told her that she could redo the paper, but she got over it.

"It really was my downfall when my teacher told me that," he said. "I did not like it, but I was so upset, I told my mom, 'I'm not going back, I know what I did and I'm going to defend myself.'

"I thought at that moment for years and years and years, it has been in the back of my mind, but it was always there."

Johnson worked 20 years in private and 34 years for a private family. He started a family and opened the Prayer House of God of modest size. He preached there, without salary, since 1998.

Johnson was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and lost his job. He tried to get more work after the referral, but the lack of a diploma or at least a GED certificate has made it difficult.

Having free time was worrying about a septuagenarian who started working when he became a teenager. Johnson also needs an income to support his family. And he remembered the awkward conversations with his grandchildren.

So all life after leaving Union High School, insufficient job prospects finally forced him to return. He approached Superintendent Kirt Hartzler to complete his diploma, and Hartzler did

From November until the last day of school, Johnson took computer courses from home to acquire the credits that were missing. The experience was not easy.

"It was extremely difficult, especially for a boy who waited 60 years before he returned to the books," he said with a smile.

But he persisted, getting the title he thought he deserved so many years ago.

Now Johnson is happy to have a happy ending to tell his grandchildren. He is eager to improve his resume and find a job.

Perhaps more than anything, however, he is proud of himself.

"In my heart, I know that I have finally achieved something that has taken me years," he said. "And I'm euphoric."

The only person who could be more enthusiastic about Johnson is his wife, Charlotte Johnson, who was at his side. She will stay up late with her while studying, despite being her own full-time job.

However, all that mattered was that her husband finished what he had started, no matter how long it took.

"I know how hard it was," he said. "It was many nights without sleep for him and many nights without sleep for me." But he did, and I'm very proud of him. Now you can say that you have fulfilled your dream. "