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78-year-old West Allis woman graduates high school

Posted at 10:38 PM, Jun 07, 2017

More than 60 years after she left high school, a West Allis woman crossed the stage as a high school graduate.

Visit Marjorie Zellmer’s home and you will be greeted by a chestnut-colored pit bull named Cinnamon.

The dog quickly destroys the myth that pit bulls are aggressive. The dog wags her tail constantly and stands up on her hind legs to greet guests. It is fitting that Zellmer has such a myth-busting beast, as she too destroys any stereotypes held about women nearing their 80th birthday.

“You know, I call myself a tween-ager,” she said with an engaging smile and infectious giggle. “I’m too young to be old and too old to be young.”

Her endearing personality belies her hardscrabble upbringing. One of seven children, she was raised in a tiny trailer home. Called upon to help rear her siblings, Zellmer left school at 16. When she returned a few years later, she mistook the certificate she earned as a high school diploma.

“It turned out, I did not have a high school diploma,” she said with a forlorn downturn of her lips.

Zellner didn’t actually figure out she failed to earn her sheepskin until she was in her 70’s when a granddaughter began college. It was then that Zellner decided she too would take a college course. When she was denied entry in the class, she made a vow.

“I thought, OK I’m going to get that diploma,” she said.

On Wednesday night, Zellner marched proudly across the stage to accept her high school diploma at the MATC graduation ceremony. It isn’t something she takes for granted. She overcame significant academic challenges to achieve her goal.

“Well math included algebra, which when I was in high school was a bad subject for me and it was again.” she said with a laugh.

She knocked down that barrier decisively.

“It totally blew my mind when I got my transcripts because all in all, I passed with a 3.85,” she said.

So tonight a 78-year-old dynamo can say with conviction, “I did it. I did it!”