WWII vet fulfills life long dream of graduating high school

At the age of 94, Roland Martineau has accomplished many things, but one thing was always missing - his high school diploma.

The World War II veteran from Leominster is a perfect example of how it's never too late to realize a dream.

Martineau, who has 4 sons, 17 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild on the way says he has a lot to be thankful for.

He's a decorated Navy "sea bee" who served in the Pacific during WWII.

However, the one thing Martineau didn't have, until now, was a high school diploma, but getting one had always been on his "to do list."

Growing up in Leominster, Martineau's mother passed away when he was six and his father took off.

"I was living with my grandmother and grandfather and they couldn't afford keeping me in school, so I got out of school and I went to work," said Martineau.

He then got married and went off to war. When he returned home, Martineau became a welder and never had the chance to go back to school.

Throughout the years, Martineau rarely ever talked about not getting his high school diploma, until he opened up about his small regret to Donna Salvi, his barber for 15 years.

Salvi and her boyfriend, Leominster firefighter Bobby Penning, started taking Martineau out for a regular lunch, which was when Martineau told them about his dream of getting a diploma.

"He's just an easy person to love, he reminded me a lot of my father who would be about his age right now," said Salvi.

Salvi and Penning then made it their mission to help Martineau achieve his dream - but it ended up being a lot more work than they initially thought.

"I went to the vets - the veterans center of Leominster, and then I went to the Mayor's office, then I went to the school department," said Penning.

At first, the plan was to have it be a surprise for Roland.

Along the way, however, there was a problem. Martineau recently contracted pneumonia and was thinking the end was near.

"He said when I went to visit him in the hospital that he wasn't leaving the hospital this time and so we told him we said 'Pepe we have a really big surprise you have to hang on,'" said Wendy Albert, Martineau's granddaughter.

Within a day, Martineau's health had turned around completely, and now he's back home and on June 2 he will walk across the stage at Leominster High School's graduation.

It's been a dream 70 years in the making, and Salvi is going to make sure Martineau looks great in his cap and gown.

"He says 'I can't wait to get my hair cut the day before graduation," said Salvi.

When asked if he now feels complete now that he's getting his diploma, Martineau responded with a resounding "oh yeah."

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