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STEVE FLORES: 70 years later, diploma dream fulfilled

Tia Margret

Grandson Antonio Martinez presents the Honorary High School Diploma to his grandmother, Margret Flores.

This is the time of year for graduation celebrations.

My granddaughter Ms. Haley graduated from junior high and starts high school next semester. Because of the large size of our Flores family, I believe we graduated cousins, nephews, nieces and grandkids to every possible grade level in the school district this year. Congratulations to our fabulous Flores kids, parents, grandparents, teachers and all who make our children smarter and more productive members of our communities.

All the graduates are to be celebrated and are special, but I have a unique graduate I feel deserves special applause. Included in these multiple Flores family celebrations is my 91-year-young Tia Margret Flores from Visalia. Seventy years after making the wrenching decision to drop out, she recently received her honorary high school diploma from her alma mater at Yuma High School in Yuma, Ariz.

In 1948, she left high school in the 11th grade to help support her family. Her son Ambrosio Flores, who now lives in Hawaii, and our cousin Gina “The Hub” Flores, who lives in Yuma, did a tag team to help make this miracle happen. “The Hub” moniker for Gina comes from her many community and business contacts in Yuma. If you ever have the good fortune to meet my cousin Gina, you will know why everyone immediately falls in love with her. Her previous tenure at the Yuma School District helped the diploma process.

“I did it for Tia Margret but also for my Dad,” states Gina. Her deceased father was twin to Ambrosio’s father. “I felt my dad’s presence and influence during the whole process,” she added.

According to his mom, Ambrosio has always encouraged her to go back to school to get her diploma. Tia Margret recently explained to me, “Always working and raising my children make it difficult to consider. Before I knew it, too much time had passed. It was too late.” Although she rarely spoke it, she realized something was forever missing in her life. That “something” was her high school diploma.

But it wasn’t too late for her son Ambrosio.

Ambrosio explains, “I decided to provide an emotional boost to my mom who is now in 'at-home' hospice care.” The honorary high school diploma not only achieved Ambrosio’s goal for his mom, but also helped his dad, my Tio Pee Wee. Tia Margret and Tio Pee Wee have been married 66 years. Ambrosio explains, “I told my father I was getting mom her honorary high school diploma so he could tend to her as if an event was coming. He was just as excited to keep a secret.”

The event included my Tia Margret’s and Tio Pee Wee’s grandson, Antonio Martinez who graduated this year from El Diamante High school in Visalia. Antonio presented the honorary Yuma High School diploma to his surprised grandmother at her home. From graduating grandson to a newly diplomaed grandmother ... both members of the graduating class of 2021.

“I was really surprised,” explained Tia Margret. “It was a dream come true. I will always encourage all my kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces to continue school and get a higher education. If grandma can do it at 91, so can you,” she adds with her beautiful smile.

I visited my Tio and Tia in Visalia this week to get more information on their feelings on her diploma. As I entered their modest living room, my Tia sat slightly slumped in her lounge chair with a bewildered look on her face. Her graying hair was beautifully combed. She was wrapped in a beautiful multicolored shawl. She smiled when I gave her the roses I brought for her.

As Tia Margret and I talked, Tio Pee Wee proudly looked on as his bride of 66 years explained her journey. “I thank my son Ambrosio and my niece Gina for making this happen” she softly whispered. By the end of my visit, Tia Margret was sitting straight up in her chair while gleefully smiling.

Ambrosio, your plan worked. The diploma really appeared to give your mom a boost. And cousin, it gave our big Flores family one too.

Happy honorary diploma Tia Margret. Your life is a great example for us all.

Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at floressteve32@yahoo.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.