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Roberts

Martha Roberts, 94, received an honorary diploma from Buffalo High School 76 years after leaving to work in the Sylvania Plant during World War II.

HUNTINGTON — A 94-year-old Prichard resident became the last official Buffalo High School graduate Dec. 14.

Martha Roberts left Buffalo High School in 1945 as a junior, but 76 years later, she received her honorary diploma from Buffalo High School during a Wayne County Board of Education meeting at Spring Valley High School.

“One thing, at my age, I would’ve never dreamed it, but I got it,” Roberts said. “But it felt good, and I told (board members) I was gonna go get me a job.”

Roberts left high school to work at a Sylvania plant that produced items for proximity fuses and antiaircraft shells to be shipped to those fighting in World War II. Roberts said she worked along siblings and friends to serve her country.

Coming from a family of 10, Roberts said the decision to leave school was mainly to support her family. She worked alongside her sister Beulah Carroll and friends Allean Hunt and Alma Powell in Huntington while her partner, Lewis Roberts, served in the U.S. Army.

Martha went on to marry Lewis after he returned from service, and she said after about 30 years together, in the early 80s, they decided to get their GEDs.

“We just woke up one day and decided we wanted to do it, so we did,” she said.

Though Lewis Roberts died in 2016, Martha Roberts and her daughter, Rhonda Compton, said they knew he was at the diploma ceremony in spirit.

Roberts’ son-in-law Bob Compton helped orchestrate his mother-in-law’s ceremony after learning she is a “Rosie” — a term short for Rosie the Riveter, or the women who took jobs in factories to replace men called to war. The term is also used to represent women who worked in the military.

Bob Compton said after Roberts was recognized as a Rosie in September, he was asked if the family had considered trying to get her an honorary diploma. Compton said he had to explain that Buffalo High School is no longer in operation, with the last graduating class being in 1998, but that did not slow anyone down.

“I thought there would’ve been a lot more red tape, a lot more things to be done,” he said. “But once people started talking to each other, everything was really smooth and went a lot quicker than I thought.”

At the board meeting, students from different schools were also recognized for academic achievements, so the Spring Valley High School auditorium was full of Wayne County families. Wayne County Schools Superintendent Todd Alexander said he was happy they were able to have the recognitions at the same time so Roberts could be seen and honored by the community.

“I think it’s fantastic that people are reaching out to us to give us the opportunity to honor somebody who attended our high schools and intended to graduate but stepped up during a time when the country was in need,” he said. “And just the fact that we were in the auditorium and there were so many people there and she received a standing ovation — we were happy to be able to be a part of that.”

Sarah Ingram is a reporter for HD Media, covering Wayne County. Follow her on Twitter @IngramWCn.

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