WWII vets receive diplomas


Staff Writer

Tom Regan, 71, and George DuFresne, 75, just did something teenagers usually do.

More than 50 years after leaving high school to serve in the military during World War II, Regan and DuFresne finally received their high school diplomas. Regan and DuFresne are the first two veterans in Federal Way to utilize Senate Bill 6430, which allows veterans of World Way II who served between Dec. 31, 1940 and Dec. 31, 1950 to receive their diplomas if they went into service before they completed high school.

“It was awesome after 60 years,” DuFresne said, after receiving his diploma at the Federal Way School Board meeting on Sept. 10. “How do you describe something like that?”

Missing out on his senior year of high school in 1944, DuFresne took the opportunity to go into the Navy to spice up his life.

DuFresne says young people sometimes feel the current situation in their life is slow, and he thought the military would add some excitement to his young life.

He became an aviation radioman, a job where a person is in a cramped airplane checking communication signals with other planes. After World War II had ceased in Europe, he was moved to work as a radioman on ships in the Atlantic Ocean.

After being honorably discharged from the Navy in 1947, he got a teaching certificate and a master’s degree. He taught math one year at the junior high, high school and college level.

“I felt like I needed to give something back,” he said, about becoming a teacher.

Realizing that teaching didn’t pay enough to support a family he went to Boeing and became a industrial engineer, and worked at Boeing for 30 years before retiring 1983. He was enticed back into the aviation world by the North American Aviation Company, where he worked on the B-1 bomber, and then the Northrop Grumman Corporation, where he worked on the B-2 bomber. He officially retired from Northrop in 1990.

Also receiving his high school diploma dressed in military uniform was Tom Regan, who worked in the military for over 30 years.

He thought it was important to get his diploma and enjoyed the evening at the School Board meeting, he said.

Regan says he wanted to get his diploma from Thomas Jefferson High School because three of his grandchildren had graduated from there. One of his grandchildren is still attending the school.

Regan began his military career with the Army in 1947. He was only 15 at the time and had his parents sign a consent form stating he was 17. During his many years in the military, Regan was sent to Japan and Korea and worked in the Airborne Ranger Infantry Company and the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

During his time in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Regan became interested in police work but since the Seattle police force was not hiring at the time, Regan began working as a Special Deputy Sheriff in charge of security at SeaTac Airport.

Because of his work at the airport he was offered the position of Deputy Sheriff of the King County Sheriff’s Department, and worked for 34 years at the department until he retired in 1990.

While with the department he began the Seattle Riot Squad in the early ‘60s and assisted in more than 200 body recovery and evidence finds as the first full-time deputy that was rescue and recovery scuba diver.

Working at the sheriff’s department, Regan also participated in the Army Special Forces and won his Green Beret.

“It was quite an achievement,” Regan said, about getting his Green Beret.

Regan also worked at SeaFair and Gold Cup races helping drivers whose hydroplanes had crashed.

He had to jump from an airplane 30 feet off the water to get to the driver of the crashed hydroplane. When down in the water he put the driver into a basket to be taken by helicopter to safety. But since the basket could only fit one person Regan was often left in the water by himself.

Regan says he thought that the people in the helicopter would forget him out in the cold water.

He thought, “I hope they don’t leave me out here,” he said.

Both DuFresne and Regan have no regrets about choosing to go into the military instead of finishing high school.

“In the 1940s we were at war and the general feeling of the population was to save the country,” DuFresne said.

It was not a hard decision to go into the military instead of finishing high school, DuFresne said.

Now Regan and DuFresne can add receiving their high school diplomas to their already long life stories.

Staff writer Janica Lockhart can be reached at 925-5565 or

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