Sixty-five years after leaving Renton High School, Frank Mead stands outside of the familiar structure to tie up an important loose end. As he returns, he thinks of the men who left with him who are gone now.
“It’s a lonely return to Renton for me. But I still come, I love Renton,” Mead said.
Mead left high school to join the Marine Corps before graduation, and on Oct. 3 he received his diploma from the school he loves.
He was presented with his diploma by principal Giovanna San Martin, Superintendent Damien Pattenaude, school board director Pam Teal and board vice president Gloria Hodge.
Mead grew up in north Renton, delivered by Dr. Adolph Bronson in Renton’s first hospital, Bronson Hospital. He said his childhood was like the show “Happy Days,” playing basketball in alleys with north Renton pals and biking everywhere.
In school, he was a troublemaker. His wife Laura Trapp-Mead said he still remembers all his teachers’ names, even his seventh-grade teacher. According to Renton School District, the counselor that year noted “that he caused a ‘maximum of trouble for others as well as himself.’” Laura said he was even standing in the band tower of the school with a friend when an earthquake began.
Frank joined the Marines where, he told the Renton Arrow at the event, there was no time for being a rascal. He moved up the ranks, received his GED and stayed in the service for 20 years before retiring in 1974. According to Renton School District, he received three Bronze Combat Stars for Vietnam service, the National Defense Service medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Ribbon, and other commendation medals. Although he’s been retired more than 40 years, Laura said he represents the idea of “once a marine, always a marine.”
He and his friends in school also formed a good-spirited “NRG: North Renton Gang.” His mother made him a flag for NRG, with “class of 1953” written on it. He recently lost it at Maplewood golf course as he often brings it to reunions. While he’s always been invited to class events, he felt like an outsider without having graduated with them.
“He’s got a really good, full life, very successful at everything he’s done, except this was an unfinished business,” Laura said. “And it was so important to him. He’s finished the puzzle now, all the pieces are there.”
In 2003 the state legislature passed three bills to issue high school diplomas for veterans. The program Operation Recognition is instituted through individual school districts, but applications go through the state’s program.
Frank heard about the program in 2009 but really got in gear fall 2017 to get his diploma from Renton.
Renton School District adopted the diplomas for veterans policy in 2016, which recognizes honorably discharged veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War or Vietnam War. The diploma can be given even if they received a GED or are deceased. The veteran must also have substantial ties to the district, including living, attending or being employed within Renton’s district.
San Martin spoke at the presentation of how the school has changed today from when Mead attended 65 years ago, but that once a Renton Indian, always a Renton Indian.