Better late than never: Hancock man awarded diploma for his service to country

Photo provided by Hancock Public Schools Herbert Marutz, who spent over 20 years in service to the U.S. in the Navy, was recently awarded an honorary diploma from Hancock High School.

HANCOCK — As a 10th-grade student in 1954, Herbert Marutz thought the Navy sounded more appealing.

“I had uncles that served — one in the Army, one in the Navy,” he said. “We’d been talking about it, Korea was just getting ready to end. I wasn’t doing well in school – English and that was not good for me. I just didn’t want to go to school anymore and I had to do something that was worthwhile.”

Marutz got a general equivalency degree and joined the Navy. But he always thought about his education, and made sure his children and grandchildren got schooling.

Marutz had talked with his daughter about coming to her Hancock Central High School reunion, but he was reluctant, as he wasn’t a graduate. (He eventually relented.) Unbeknownst to him, his daughter had started talks with the school district to get him a diploma.

Monday night, thanks to his daughter, Marutz got an honorary Hancock Central High School diploma at the Hancock Public Schools Board meeting.

“We felt it was right, given his service to our country, to provide him with a diploma,” said Superintendent Kipp Beaudoin.

Even in the Navy, Marutz said, he quickly learned school was important. Your rank was dependent upon how well you did on the tests.

“I was a boiler tender, and in boot camp, if you didn’t study and didn’t keep up, you were on boot side,” he said. “If you wanted to get through, that’s what you were going to do.”

After he left the Navy, he moved to Phoenix, where he went to trade school to become a machinist. He worked there in the aircraft and missile industry until 1975. In trade school, too, you had to work to keep up.

“If we didn’t study and be able to move along, they wouldn’t keep you in the courses,” he said. “It wasn’t like when you were 15 and they tried to work with you. When you’re in your 20s, they kick you out and say ‘We don’t have time for you.'”

After Arizona, he moved back to the Keweenaw, working at what is now Calumet Machine. After 18 years there, he worked at a paper mill for 18 years until it closed.

Now 80, Marutz lives “in the best part of the world” on Gratiot Lake. He told the school board how important it is for young people to receive their education.

“When you’re 15 or 17, you don’t think you need that,” he said. “You think you can do it another way, and there is no other way.”