CHICAGO (CBS) — Naomi Thompson Woods said she always felt something was missing in her life when she had to drop out of high school in 1934. It was during the height of the Great Depression and she had to take care of her family.
“I always felt I needed to finish it, finish something,” she said.
A special ceremony at Evanston Township High School was held Tuesday to present her with her long awaited diploma.
“It is my honor to bestow upon Naomi Wheatley Thompson Woods her diploma as a member and graduating member of the Evanston Township High School Class of 1935 and all the rights and honors that goes with being a graduate of ETHS, Congratulations,” said Eric Witherspoon, Superintendent, ETHS.
“We were so excited to learn about your 100th birthday. We were so happy to be able to be part of this celebration and putting this together,” added Witherspoon. “She’s 100 years and still understands the value of this diploma. This wasn’t our idea. This is something she has regretted and wished for all of her life. And finally today, we can make it a reality.”
Thompson Woods attended Haven Middle School in Evanston and attended ETHS through 1934 and was due to graduate with the class of 1935.
“During the Depression, there were a lot of things that happened to families that denied them the chance to finish their education. She’s always eager to do that and to think about it. She loves writing poetry. This is another reminder of how encouraging she’s been to us to get an education,” said Bruce Woods, Thompson Woods’ son. “Because she didn’t have that opportunity, she told us to grasp that opportunity and get an education.”
Thompson Woods said the day has been overwhelming, but she is thrilled by the honor she has waited so long to receive.
“I’m grateful, and emotional,” she said.
“I think it was very courageous of my mother. It was also a sacrifice she made because she loved school so to have something that you loved to do being taken away because of circumstances is a bit traumatic. She believed what was more important to take care of her family. This is a great day for my mother. She deserves it,” Bruce Woods said.
There is longevity in the family. Thompson Woods sister is 97-years old and her mother lived until she was 100-years old. What’s next for her?
“Well, as my mother always said, I’ll keep on keepin on,” she laughed.
Four generations of Woods have attended Evanston High School. Her great granddaughter currently is a student there.