CALUMET CITY | Three generations of family members and Thornton Fractional North officials joined James Gindl on Wednesday as he was awarded an honorary diploma from the school he'd left 62 years earlier.
"I never thought about (graduating), because it's just not there," Gindl said. "You can't go back and change things. I don't think I'd change anything I've ever done."
Gindl enlisted in the Air Force in March of 1952 and never finished high school. He served as a trustee in Lynwood for 20 years, part of that time as water and sewer commissioner. He also worked as a plumber and a welder.
"That's just the way life goes," Gindl said. "You're raising a family and just do what you have to do. You have to make your life."
Earlier this year, Gindl came to T.F. North to deliver some of his old yearbooks, a letterman's sweater and a few of his old letters for the school's records. After talking with school officials, it was decided the 82-year-old needed a diploma.
"We honor and expect him to go forth in the world and do great good," Principal Dwayne Evans said Wednesday. "The only problem with that is that he's already done great good."
Gindl choked up as he presented Evans with a pencil drawing he'd done during his time as a Meteor. The military-inspired piece has been hanging in his home ever since.
"I have a lot of military stuff at home," Gindl said. "Sooner or later, I'm going to pass on. There's a lot of things that you just no longer need and some place down the line, maybe somebody else will appreciate it."
On the back of the artwork was a note he'd written about three friends who were killed in the Korean War.
"You miss your buddies," he said. "You watch them get killed and there's nothing you can do about it."
North Liason Tonya Reed read a proclamation from Calumet City Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush and the City Council congratulating Gindl. The proclamation will be officially ratified by the council at its next meeting and Gindl will be sent a formal copy.
"Life is shorter than one thinks," Gindl said. "I look at the younger population coming up and wonder how many of them will actually give back."