Queensbury WWII veteran, 94, surprised with high school diploma in Lake George

Mark Mulholland
Created: November 11, 2020 06:31 PM

LAKE GEORGE - Bill Miller, Jr. and his wife of 71 years rolled into Lake George High School Wednesday flanked by 18 American flags.

The 94-year-old Miller, a veteran of World War II, served as a radioman aboard the U.S.S. Oglethorpe in the Pacific Theater.

He was here today among elected leaders and dignitaries under the guise of attending a Veterans Day ceremony.

It was, but much to his surprise, Bill was the only one being honored.

He left to serve in the summer of '44, before his senior year at the former Vincentian Institute in Albany.

He came back, married Marie Luther, raised five kids on Glen Lake in Queensbury, and was successful in business.

But he hadn't received the important paper he missed out on 75 years ago. 

Wednesday, Michael Tolan, the current principal of Bishop Maginn, a predecessor of the school most people referred to as "V.I.,"added high school graduate to Bill Miller's impressive resume.

When asked what the diploma means to him, Bill paused for a moment then said, "Quite a bit. I hadn't really given it that much thought all these years, but it certainly is a wonderful gesture."

After 75 years, it was a cermony that almost didn't happen. As late as Wednesday morning, Bill Miller didn't want to come because he didn't think he was deserving of recognition.

"I started out absolutely refusing to attend because I didn't feel I was deserving of any gratitude of my former service," he said. "I was just one more guy in service and whatever came, came. That's all."

But his wife and their daughter, Kathy Gowen, managed to convince him.

"They almost got a whip out," laughed Bill.

His grandson, Isaiah Gowen, currently active duty Navy, came in from San Diego to help honor his grandfather.

"He is one of the most humble men I have ever met so it's no surprise that he said that [he's undeserving] but he is without a doubt completely deserving of this graduation."

The Millers married at Vincentian Institute 71 years ago.

Marie gave him a kiss of congratulations and then offered this advice:

"Love each other. Care for each other."

Daughter Kathy helped pulled the surprise ceremony together and got a little choked up as she talked about the pride she has for her father.

"I'm so happy for him. I really am. This is long, long overdue."

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