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Johnstown veteran set to receive high school diploma after 60 years

Urvin Hartsock quit school in 1961 and ended up spending three years in Korea during the Vietnam War.

JOHNSTOWN, Ohio — Just off State Route 62 in Johnstown, there’s a home you’ve probably never seen. It was owned by a man you’ve probably never heard of.

“He’s a very decorated war here [who] lived in Johnstown,” Johnstown-Monroe School District Superintendent, Dr. Philip Wagner said.

Brigadier General Perry Miles commanded an all-African regiment in World War I. When he died in 1961, part of his will wished that his farm be kept for the purpose of religious, educational and recreational good to benefit residents in Johnstown Village and the surrounding community.

More than 60 years later, Dr. Wagner says the courts are now involved trying to sort out the Miles estate.

Those conversations eventually made their way to the local American Legion, where Dr. Wagner says another name came up.

“One thing led to another [and] we started talking about schools and I learned about Urvin and he should have graduated in the class of 1962,” Wagner said.

Urvin Hartsock never finished high school. His last picture can be found in the pages of the 1961 Johnstown yearbook. He quit school to work at a steel plant. The next year after he was laid off, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“At that time I was young,” Hartsock, now 79, said. “[I] thought I was smarter than the teachers that was teaching me. When I got in the service I figured out I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was.”

He spent three years in Korea during the Vietnam War with the 532nd Quartermaster Fueling Depot. By the time he returned to Johnstown a few years later, he had a wife and children.

Still, though, no diploma.

“You’re not as smart as you thought you was,” he said to his 1961 yearbook picture. “I’ve learned that the hard way. I learned that the hard way.”

A lifelong wish of his own father, who also never got a diploma because he had to work to help support his family, that all of his children would receive their diplomas.

“In this year’s graduating class of 2023, we will have a graduate from the class of 1962,” Dr. Wagner said.

A district policy says if someone joins the workforce or joins the armed forces but are currently a resident of Ohio, they can be awarded a high school diploma.

Sixty-one years later, quite by happenstance, it’s Hartsock’s time for pomp and circumstance.

“At least I’ve honored my dad’s wishes,” Hartsock said.

Hartsock says the bigger picture here is the legacy and final wishes of Brigadier General Perry Miles.

“His words should mean something,” Hartsock said of Miles.

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