(CNN) — A 91-year-old World War II veteran walked across the stage this week to receive an honorary high school diploma. His grandson, a senior in the graduating class of 2019, walked across the stage with him.
Pete Sabedra received the certificate at the annual awards ceremony at a high school in Derry, Pennsylvania, a town about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The whole occasion was a surprise. “Nobody told me anything,” Sabedra told CNN affiliate WTAE.
His grandson, Kace, will have his own commencement May 31, the Tribune-Review reported.
The diploma was a long time coming
Almost 80 years ago, Sabedra was an eighth grader at what was then Derry Township High School. But he had to leave school after his father died. He took a job working on the railroad to help support his family, then joined the military and fought in Germany in World War II.
When he returned from the war, Sabedra earned his GED and went to work for Torrance State Hospital, just outside Derry, where he had a 30-year career. He retired in 1985, and later got to play a major role in his grandson’s life.
After Kace walked across the stage with his grandfather, he told WTAE it was “a big honor” to be there on his grandfather’s special day. He added that his grandfather had been there for him “my whole entire life. We grew up together. He looked over me as a kid.”
Sabedra turns 92 this month.
His son, Ron — Kace’s father — told WTAE that his father has had a “rough life,” but he’s doing well in his old age. Even in his 10th decade, Sabedra still drives and lives by himself.
“We can only hope we can make it there,” Ron Sabedra said.