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McKeesport resident receives high school diploma for 90th birthday

| Monday, July 7, 2014, 3:56 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Peter DiCecco, 90, of McKeesport proudly displays his newly awarded high school diploma. McKeesport Area School District honored DiCecco, who enlisted in the Army before completing high school in the 1940s, with the diploma this year.
This uniformed portrait of Peter DiCecco was taken during his service in the U.S. Army, in which he enlisted in place of his brother, the family's primary breadwinner at the time.

Peter Joseph DiCecco may be the oldest member of McKeesport Area School District's class of 2014.

The lifelong McKeesport resident received his high school diploma at his 90th birthday party at St. Patrick Church on June 29.

DiCecco was draped in a blue cap and gown when Assistant Superintendent Harry Bauman presented the document.

“It's a surprise,” DiCecco said. “I got a good family and everything ... We all get along together if anybody needs anything.”

“He knew nothing of it, so for his 90th birthday we had the party and we had his graduation,” daughter-in-law Iva DiCecco said. “(It was) very emotional. He was very happy.”

“It was nice to learn a little bit about his service,” Bauman said. “There's so few World War II veterans around right now. It was just a spectacular honor.”

DiCecco, a middle child of Theresa and John DiCecco, went into the Army in January 1943 on behalf of his older brother, Anthony.

Peter DiCecco explained that Anthony was drafted but could not serve because he was supporting the family through a job at National Tube. Theresa could not speak English and John DiCecco could barely move because of a stroke.

The youngest brother, Mario, was not old enough to join the military, so Peter went in Anthony's stead.

DiCecco said he had expected to graduate in a few years, but when he joined the service he was 17.

“Oh boy, the way things happen, I tell ya,” he said.

Bauman grew up across the street from the DiCeccos in Christy Park and is good friends with DiCecco's son Peter DiCecco Jr.

DiCecco Jr. and Iva DiCecco went to the district about a month ago to discuss the Carol Stipkovits Memorial Scholarship Fund.

It was during that time the family and Bauman discussed DiCecco receiving a diploma through a program designed for veterans of World War II and the Korean War.

The district needed to see DiCecco's discharge papers and the family had to complete other paperwork.

He was a truck driver in 377 Quartermaster Truck Co., served in New Guinea and reached the rank of corporal.

He earned the Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one bronze service star.

DiCecco said he was offered the title of sergeant, which came with more time in the service.

He declined the opportunity and was honorably discharged in January 1946. He then went to work in a factory of the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. and later the Kelsey-Hayes Co. instead of going back to school.

He met his wife, Charlotte, after coming home from the Army. She moved to McKeesport from Wyano at age 15 with her mother, Emily Teti.

Emily Teti was friends with DiCecco's mother prior to Peter's discharge, and would translate his letters from English to Italian so Theresa could understand them.

Charlotte, 86, and DiCecco will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary in November.

“I worked every day. He had two jobs and worked every day (and we) got together at night,” Charlotte said of their secret to a long marriage. “We got along real good. Everything's real good with us.”

DiCecco said he's unsure if he will attend college now that he officially graduated from high school.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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