85-year-old New Bern veteran who dropped out of school and joined Navy to receive diploma

New Bern

NEW BERN, N.C. (WAVY) – Ira Edgerton is a Navy veteran living in New Bern who has almost everything. Almost.

“I’ve been a lot of places and done a lot of things people have never done,” Edgerton said.

The 85-year-old has a lifetime of memories. His wife Diana of 63 years bound them together in an album full of pictures and certificates. 

“There you are,” Diana said looking at a group photo.

Ira spent his career serving. In 1952, he joined the Navy on his 18th birthday. “I was a teenager when these was taken,” Edgerton said looking at his boot camp photo.

He served 20 years as a sailor before retiring, most of the the time spent on submarines. His favorite was the USS Halfbeak.  

“I liked everything about the Navy,” he added.

“He has accomplished so much, he really has,” Diana said.

The next 20 years were working as an electrician on the Ocracoke Ferry as he and Diana raised their two children outside New Bern, North Carolina.  He experienced so much, though there is one regret.

“I’ve had a wonderful career,” Edgerton said.  “They only thing that was missing was a high school diploma.”

Ira, who went to school in Rhode Island, couldn’t read or write.

“They (teachers) should have caught it and did different than what happened to me,” he added.

In the 10th grade he had enough. One day he walked out of high school and never returned.

“I don’t know how I felt back then,” Edgerton said.

A year later he was a sailor, though always bothered by never getting the chance to walk across that stage.

“I went up for E-8 five times,” Edgerton added.  “I passed the test five times. I came back non-select and I think when they looked at my record there was no high school diploma.”

Still, there were a lifetime full of achievements. Soon there will be one more.

“I’m so proud of him,” Diana said. “He has worked really hard for this.”

“It was that void or that space that I should have had, something to show that I went through school,” Edgerton added.

One of Ira’s old submarine buddies made a call to Cranston High in Rhode Island. After hearing Ira’s story, administration decided to award him an honorary diploma.

It will be given to Edgerton in a couple weeks when he and his fellow submariners gather for a reunion at Regent.

“I’m proud,” Edgerton said. “I think I’ve done a good job.”

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