97-year-old awarded honorary High School diploma

A woman who left school at the age of 11 to help her family during the Depression, was given an honorary diploma this week.

NEW ORLEANS - It was a graduation to remember, especially because the graduate, is 97 years old. On Tuesday, now New Orleanian, Katherine Martensen, was awarded an honorary diploma from Mississippi's Picayune Memorial High School.

Dressed in a cap and gown, Martensen's lifelong dream of graduating high school, finally became a reality.

"Well it was a surprise," she said. I didn't know anything about this."

"When we came in and saw how excited she was, it just kind of warms your heart," said High School Principal, Kent Kirkland.

The diploma was given by Kirkland, who after hearing Martensen's story, drove from Mississippi to give it to Martensen personally.

"It should mean a great accomplishment," Kirkland said. "Honorary diplomas are only given to honorary people. We feel that Ms. Katherine fits that bill."

"She's had a long life," said one of Martensen's daughter's Katherine. "She's 97 and this I'm sure, is one of her special, special days."

Martensen dropped out of school after 11th grade to help her family through tough times.

"Her father had lost his store during the Depression," said Katherine. "As one of the eldest children, she had to go to work to put food on the table."

With World War II also going on, she became a real-life 'Rosie the Riveter.' She worked on aircraft for four years and made plenty of memories along the way.

"I took a shop course and that's where I learned to do the shop work with all the tools and everything," Martensen said. "When we weren't doing a night shift we taught the soldiers how to dance."

After the war, and with a family of her own, time got away. Until today.

"My mom had four kids in five years and it seemed like her life revolved around us and our activities," said Katherine.

"This is something I'll always treasure," said Martensen.

Making this day one Martensen and her family will never forget.

Martensen was a 'Rosie the Riveter' at Key Field in Meridien, Mississippi. She says she enjoyed every minute, and wants others to never give up hope when it comes to accomplishing one's goals.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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