Speaking before the graduates of St. Agnes High School during their graduation Mass last Friday night at St. Fidelis Church, Monsignor Denis Herron had a powerful question for them: “When you reach a ripe old age, how will you be remembered?”
For one Class of 2016 graduate, the answer was already quite clear.
Anthony Barone, a 92-year-old World War II veteran and lifelong College Point resident, was overjoyed to finally receive his high school diploma alongside family and friends.
“It caught me off guard, but I’m very happy,” Barone said, beaming. “I think I was more nervous today than I was going into the service!”
Born on Jan. 11, 1924, in College Point, Barone graduated from St. Fidelis School in 1938 and went on to attend St. Agnes High School, which was then a co-ed school, until 1941. At the time, Barone’s mother was a single parent working hard to provide for her three children.
After his brother, Victor, was called to serve in the Army, the then-17-year-old Barone dropped out of St. Agnes after his junior year to support his family.
In 1943, Barone enlisted in the Army and served as a military police escort guard at a POW camp for three years. He returned to College Point in 1946, and in 1951 married the love of his life, Lottie Milinski, at St. Fidelis Church. The two were together for 61 years before her passing in 2013.
“The most wonderful woman in the world,” he said. “It took me a long time, but I only had to ask her once. She said yes.”
The couple had three children: Michael, Daniel and Barbara. Barone now has five grandchildren, Angela, Matthew, Ava, Alison and Janice, and one great-granddaughter, Charlie.
Barone still lives in the same College Point home where he was born 92 years ago.
“It was truly a dream of his to receive his diploma,” said his daughter Barbara. “He has seen so much in his life. It was awesome that we were able to see him honored this way.”
Christine Thornhill, a family friend and St. Agnes alumni, was moved upon discovering Barone’s one regret, and set the plan in motion.
“When Mr. Barone told me his biggest regret was his missing high school diploma, I knew that I had to contact Denise Fetonte [director of development] at St. Agnes,” said Thornhill. “Both she and Ms. Susan Nicoletti [principal] had such a positive reaction. I will be forever grateful.”
“We don’t often get a chance to turn back the hands of time and make things right,” Nicoletti said at the ceremony. “But today, on this joyful day, the day that falls between Memorial Day and D-Day, it is our great pleasure to honor Mr. Anthony Barone as a veteran, a neighbor and a graduate of St. Agnes Academic High School.”
Barone received his diploma and cap to resounding applause. All in attendance joined in an emotional rendition of “God Bless America.”
“I’m very happy. Today was the payoff,” said Barone.
Barone looked over at his granddaughter, another recent graduate, and held up his diploma: “See? I’ve got one too, now!”