Diploma achieved ... and cherished
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Edward Hartman of Lehighton proudly displays the high school diploma (left) he received last month over a half-century after he received his GED from Lehighton Area High School, as well as a copy of the diploma (right) Hartman received from the state.
The remote control was invented, Elvis gyrated on the Ed Sullivan Show, and a man nicknamed Ike was in charge of our country.
While much has changed since he passed his high school GED on Aug. 1, 1956, there had been one constant in Edward Hartman's life: the absence of his actual diploma.
That all changed recently for the Lehighton native, who after five decades of patience, finally received his degree at the Oct. 18 Lehighton Area School Board meeting.
It was a moment Hartman said he will cherish forever.
"It was great," Hartman said. "I got one awful standing ovation."
What made the moment even sweeter was that Hartman's family was by his side.
"I had four generations with me; a son and daughter, one grandchild, and two great-grandchildren," he said. "I was proud of that."
Hartman entered the military in April of 1951, where he was stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., for basic training.
"Due to my father's illness, I was sent to Germany instead of Korea," he said. "I then volunteered to go to Korea, but the Red Cross said it would be easier to get me out of Germany instead of Korea."
Hartman, whose father a coal-miner passed away at the age of 38, went on to serve six years as a Medical Sergeant in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he achieve the rank of Sergeant First Class.
Over time, Hartman said he made numerous attempts to obtain his diploma, only to come up short each time.
He became so dismayed, that "it got to the point I thought I would never get this."
"In all these years, I made attempts," said Hartman, 77. "Everyone would try to get it, but said they couldn't."
That all changed for Hartman after he contacted Bonnie Cortese, administrative assistant to the superintendent in the Lehighton Area School District.
Upon investigation, Hartman said Cortese told him he could be in luck.
"The district has a policy that we will exchange a state-issued GED diploma for a district GED diploma," Cortese said. "First they have to acquire their state-issued GED diploma and then exchange it. We send the state-issued GED diploma to the state; they can only have one diploma."
As he stared at his diploma, Hartman was quick to extol praise on Cortese.
"I can't thank Mrs. Cortese enough," Hartman said. "If she wouldn't have hung in there, I never would have got it."
Though humbled by Hartman's praise, Cortese said it is he who deserves the credit.
"Mr. Hartman did the hard work; he earned his diploma," she said. "But, I guess because he was in the service at the time, the paperwork, somewhere along the way, got lost, and so we had to first get a transcript from the company that issued the testing in New Jersey.
"After he was able to get an official transcript, I was able to get that information to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, who then issued the state GED diploma."
Cortese said she was just glad she could aid Hartman in his quest.
"It was a pleasure to be able to assist him," she said. "He is a delightful person, and I was so happy for him. To see his excitement in receiving his diploma was priceless."
Now that he has his high school diploma firmly in his possession, Hartman said he plans to keep it near and dear to his heart.