Cuyahoga Falls WWII veteran graduates from high school at 97
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – On Tuesday night, Libert Bozzelli fulfilled a lifelong dream – at age 97, he was graduated from high school.
Bozzelli graduated with the class of 2022 from Cuyahoga Falls High School, walking the stage at the Blossom Music Center.
The World War II veteran’s degree is not ceremonial, said his grandson, Brent Hovey, a Falls High School teacher who introduced his grandfather at the ceremony.
“Libert wanted to win it,” Hovey said. “So a few weeks ago he sat and took the required graduation tests in math, language arts, and reading, and he scored over 90% on all three .”
Bozzelli joins 17 family members in graduating from Cuyahoga Falls High School, Hovey said, including his great-grandson, Dominik Czetli, who received his diploma at the same ceremony.
Bozzelli did not graduate from high school with his class in 1942 because at age 17, as World War II raged, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, transferred to the Air Force and served in Casablanca, Morocco, Hovey said. Returning to the United States, he trained other soldiers at a range in Georgia.
In 2015, 71 years after leaving the military, Bozzelli was honored as a World War II veteran, taking a Washington DC Honor Flightwhere he served in the Honor Guard and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“It’s an experience he calls one of his greatest honors, and one that I was fortunate enough to share alongside him,” Hovey said.
Upon leaving the army, Bozzelli married his sweetheart, Madeline, who was his wife for 75 years. Madeline died on May 12. The couple had 4 children, 6 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and 6 great-great-grandchildren.
Bozzelli has also “found his niche,” career-wise, one Hovey said. His grandfather became a sheet metal worker and served as union sales agent and union president for the next 50 years, becoming one of the longest-serving union sales agents in U.S. history.
Bozzelli never thought he could go back to school, he wrote in an email.
“Education is so important and I’m so lucky to be able to continue my education even at my age,” he said. “I always wanted to graduate from high school, but in my time I had the war and then I had to come back to take care of my parents and my new wife. I hope this inspires everyone that it’s never too late to do what you want! Even at 97, you can still achieve your goals: you can still graduate!
Bozzelli has given back a lot to his community over the years, Hovey said. He and Madeline were well-known philanthropists in the Greater Akron area, serving on countless local councils and raising over $200 million for area organizations.
Among Libert Bozzelli’s boards were the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Akron Civic Theater, and Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital, now Western Reserve Hospital, of which he served as president.
With an interest in mental health ahead of time, Hovey said, Bozzelli founded and served as president of the Suicide Prevention Organization and served as chair of the Mental Health Council. He also became the first chair of the Fashion School Board at Kent State University.
Bozzelli also served as Cuyahoga Falls City Councilman for 19 years and Summit County Councilman for four years.
In 2020, the city of Cuyahoga Falls renamed a section of Broad Boulevard “Bozzelli Boulevard” and set up a bocce ball court named “Bozzelli Court” at the city’s Quirk Cultural Center.
Bozzelli’s granddaughter, Lauren Hovey, is very proud to be a granddaughter of Libert and Madeline Bozzelli, she wrote in an email.
She is also touched by her grandfather’s success in graduating from high school.
“I’ve learned so much from my grandfather over the years,” she said, “whether it’s something simple like how to play a good card game of rummy 500 or the best strategies for playing bocci, or bigger things like what it means to be an Italian-American, or how to always do something you’re passionate about and help those in need.