Local hospice patient gets high school diploma at age 87

RENSSELAER, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local hospice patient who dropped out of Rensselaer High School to serve his country in World War II is finally getting his diploma.

Ken Kross graduated from Rensselaer High School on Thursday. It was a moment 70 years in the making.

“I never expected it at all” he said.

The 87-year-old is a cancer patient under the care of The Community Hospice. In 1944, Kross dropped out of high school to join the Navy to fight in World War II.

“It was the worst thing in the world,” he said. “If you were there, you’d think you were going to lose the war.”

After the war, Kross left the Navy only to join the Army two years later. He served in post-World War II Germany.

“I loved my country, and I still do,” he said.

Gerry Ladouceur is the Community Hospice Chaplain.

“After the army, he came back to work for the railroad for 40 years,” he said. “Then he raised a family and never had a chance to go back to school.”

He kept his secret for 70 years, but now battling cancer for the second time, he was placed in the Community Hospice six months ago and confided in Ladouceur. Ladouceur is also a veteran and a member of the We Honor Veterans program at Community Hospice.

Ladouceur contacted school officials in the Rensselaer City School District where Kross still lives. They invited Kross to attend the graduation in June, but because of his health, they held a special ceremony for him at the hospice.

“He just last night said, ‘I’m going to do this. I want to go down. I want to get this diploma. Everybody worked hard to get this for me,’” Kross’ daughter Debbie Cotugno said.

His children had the rare privilege of seeing their dad join the Class of 2015.

“It’s amazing,” Cotugno said. “It’s just so wonderful that this actually happened today.”

Kross said he will proudly display his diploma and cap and gown and wants to celebrate with a Black Velvet.

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