Charles Theodore Horn was a Sunday school teacher in the 1970s. A humble community leader and a man of character and faith, he made an impact then on a young boy who had recently moved to central Ohio.
That young boy, Matt Allison, now 48, wanted to repay Horn for his kindness.
When he learned recently that Horn, an 86-year-old Korean War veteran, had left high school and enlisted in the military just a half-credit short of receiving his diploma, Allison contacted Gahanna Lincoln High School to see what could be done. He had read a newspaper article about Ohio veterans receiving honorary diplomas for their service, he said.
On Aug. 12, Horn's alma mater delivered.
Donning a blue cap and gown and marching to "Pomp and Circumstance" played by the high school band, Horn accepted his diploma in the school auditorium -- 69 years later.
Hundreds of Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools employees, who were kicking off the school year with an annual meeting, filled the auditorium.
The ceremony was a surprise for the crowd.
"It was beautiful," Horn said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better."
After the event, family members and friends from Horn's church gathered in the school atrium to pose for pictures. Allison still attends Havens Corners Church in Blacklick, where Horn is now a first elder.
"Are you going to go outside and throw your hat?" Horn's children asked.
Their father smirked.
"I don't know if I have the energy," he said.
But he did it anyway in the atrium while his family and friends cheered.
Horn would have graduated in 1950, the year he left school to enlist in the Ohio Air National Guard. He later joined the U.S. Air Force and then the Ohio National Guard. He was honorably discharged in 1955 and transitioned from fueling fighter jets to fueling tractor-trailers for the U.S. Postal Service.
He drove for the Postal Service for about 38 years, transporting mail among Columbus, Akron and Youngstown.
While at Lincoln High School, Horn was a star lineman on the football team and was named team captain and most valuable player his senior year.
He and Phyllis, his wife of 63 years, have four children, Ann Price, Gary Horn, Cindy Morley and Chuck Horn. They have eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren. Most of the family still lives in or near Gahanna.
Gahanna-Jefferson Superintendent Steve Barrett said bestowing diplomas on veterans is an exciting honor for Ohio schools.