Utah mother of 17 graduates high school at 92

A 92-year-old woman from Utah received a surprise gift Wednesday, almost 76 years late.

Barbara Stanley has been in the news several times in her life – not only did she have a baby on the same day as one of her daughters, but she also had 17 children.

“We had fun, what else do you want to know? Stanley said.

Eight boys and nine girls – along with his boys, Stanley said they have enough for their own recreation team.

“My husband bought them uniforms,” Stanley said.

Stanley met her husband when she was 23. At the time, she did not intend to have a large family. Instead, Stanley wanted to teach physical education.

Born during the Great Depression, Stanley said she grew up helping her sisters with their children.

“I guess that’s why I never thought about having it myself because I was tired of taking care of myself,” Stanley said.

When asked why 17 children, Stanley laughed back “it just happened”.

In all she’s accomplished, there’s one thing Stanley never received: her high school diploma.

It was in the late 1940s when Stanley left high school to help his sister, whose husband went to war. This reality surprised Stanley’s granddaughter, Sheri McFarland.

“I kept thinking, ‘if it’s something that she regrets, why can’t we make it regret anymore?” Said McFarland.

Stanley had attended West High School in Salt Lake City when she dropped out, so McFarland reached out to the administrators to see if they could achieve something special.

“It was extraordinary the circumstances she found herself in and why she had to leave school,” said Jared Wright, principal of West High School.

Wright said many students gave up to fight for their country during World War I and again in the 1940s during World War II.

Knowing what Stanley sacrificed, Wright met with his administration to discuss what they could do for the 92-year-old.

“Once a panther; always a Panther, ”said Wright.

After a few months, McFarland was surprised to find a diploma in his mailbox.

“I opened it and cried,” McFarland said.

Almost 76 years later, McFarland awarded his diploma to Stanley – a graduate of the class of 2021.

“Oh my God, this is beautiful,” Stanley said. “Now can you take me to the ball?” I’ve never had a prom!

Stanley watched his 17 children return the pom poms on their graduation hats, and now it was his turn.

“Back then it didn’t mean anything to me, but now it does,” Stanley said.

All of Stanley’s children except one live in Utah. Her youngest son lives in Arizona.

This story was originally posted by Erin Cox on Scripps Station KSTU in Salt Lake City.


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