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Seventy years later, Murrysville vet gets high school diploma

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 8:52 p.m.
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Marilyn Messina, President of Woodland Hills school district gives a sweet kiss of Thanks on the hand of Ed Danko of Murrysville for his service to our country. Aaron Loughner | for the Murrysville Star
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Ed Danko of Murrysville poses with his sister Arlene Eathorne and neice Roxanne Weisendanger from El Paso, TX with his newly awarded High School Diploma. Aaron Loughner | for the Murrysville Star
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Woodland Hills school district Superintendent Walter Calinger presents Ed Danko of Murrysville with his high school diploma. Aaron Loughner | for the Murrysville Star

When Ed Danko was a high school sophomore, he chose to leave school to work at a gas station in North Braddock to help his family provide for his six siblings. Nine months later, he began working at Edger Thomson Steel Works in Braddock before being drafted into the Army to serve in World War II.

It took a while, but earlier this month, Danko received what he began working toward more than 70 years earlier – a high school diploma.

“I was elated to get my diploma,” Danko, an 88-year-old Murrysville resident, said. “I waited 70 years for this.”

Despite not graduating, Danko always wanted to go on to college. He'd like to pursue an associate's degree even now, he said.

Family members watched him receive his diploma with pride.

“It was 70 years ago, and now here he is,” his sister Arlene Eathorne of Level Green said. “I really am so proud.”

Danko received his diploma through Operation Recognition, a program offered by the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

When Eathorne heard about the program, she knew Danko would appreciate the honor — but would never apply himself, she said.

Eathorne described her brother as “quiet and reserved, never talks about his regrets.” But she always knew he wanted his diploma from the former Scott High School. The school eventually was part of a state-mandated merger that formed Woodland Hills School District.

After being drafted into the Army, Danko fought under General George Patton in the Battle of the Bulge. He was one of tens of thousands of soldiers to land on the banks of Normandy during the D-Day attacks in 1944, Eathorne said.

But Danko made a good life. After his discharge, Danko worked for an ice company and eventually was hired on at E.L. Wiegand to work with heating and electronics for 37 years. He lived in Level Green much of his life, never marrying but always living close to family.

He considers himself well-versed in politics and self-educated — Danko regularly follows local, state and international news.

Now, Danko lives at Golden Living Center in Murrysville. An avid golfer, hunter, fisherman and stamp collector, he now battles Parkinson's Disease and often uses a wheelchair.

Presenting Danko with his diploma was an honor, said Marilyn Messina, president of the Woodland Hills School Board.

“It shows that achievements in education are ageless,” Messina said.

The district has honored veterans in a similar way before Messina said. She was amazed by how appreciative and thankful Danko was when she and other Woodland Hills officials felt the same emotions towards his service.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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