Better late than never
For Navy veteran and retired pilot Marc Remhof, there was always something he felt he should have completed in his youth — his high school education. He finally got his diploma May 21 at a special ceremony in Marshall.
Marshall native Marc Remhof recently retired after spending 29 years as a Sun Country pilot. He also served in the U.S. Navy, worked as an aircraft mechanic and attended college. He’s done a lot of remarkable things in his life and he also has a loving family, but he said he’s always felt like something was missing in his life.
Last week, Remhof’s life became complete when he received his high school diploma — Marshall High School administrators were able to make that happen at the last school board meeting.
“I’m speechless,” Remhof said after receiving his high school diploma from Marshall Public School Superintendent Scott Monson and MHS Principal Brian Jones.
As far as anyone knows, 66-year-old Remhof is the oldest Marshall High School graduate in history.
“We were contacted by Mr. Remhof back in February, inquiring what he might need to do to earn his high school diploma,” Jones said. “His initial question sent us on an interesting chase.”
Remhof attended MHS from 1966 to 1970. With one semester of high school to go in 1970, he made the decision to drop out and join the U.S. Navy.
“He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War,” Jones said. “He was an aircraft mechanic and served two tours in Vietnam. Upon returning from Vietnam, he enrolled in Thief River Falls Technical College and became a licensed airplane mechanic. Then his journey of life began.”
Fast forward 30 years.
“On Feb. 16, 2017, he retired after 29 years flying for Sun County Airlines, where he was the captain of the Boeing 737 but also flew the 727 and DC 10, where he flew all over the world,” Jones said. “Marc is married to his wife, Cheryl. They raised two great children and have one grandson and another grandchild on the way. In conversations with Marc, that one part of his life that was missing was his high school diploma. His GED, which he obtained in the Navy, just wasn’t the same.”
While he achieved a stellar military and professional career, Remhof said he regrets dropping out of high school midway through his senior year.
“I will say it was a bad decision on my part when I left Marshall High School,” he said. “I realized that about 3 minutes into my Navy career when I had some guy about an inch from my face screaming at me. It made me think, ‘Maybe I should’ve stayed in Marshall.’ It’s been a long journey and I can’t thank you gentlemen and ladies enough for everything. It’s amazing. Thank you very much.”
After Remhof supplied MHS administrators with his college transcript, they were able to start comparing that with the requirements necessary for graduation.
“What we did was review our current school board policy,” Jones said. “We started with doing a transcript audit, just like we’d do with any student who moves into the district. We were able to take some credits that he earned at Thief River Falls, as well as some of his credits and experience he had in the United States Navy and award those.”
Through the process, Jones said they found Remhof’s cumulative file in the district record’s room.
“It was interesting to see and read,” Jones said. “I read where his dad worked for the Highway Patrol and his mom worked at the Independent. They lived on Lawrence Street and it had the church he attended. It certainly looked different than the high school transcripts that we have today.”
Jones joked that they didn’t make him go back and take his Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment exams and that the only real question they had was the technology component.
“But we felt like he probably has a good handle on technology since he’s able to fly the 737, the 727 and DC 10,” Jones said. “So we felt like he’d met those requirements, too.”
At the meeting, board members offered their congratulations to the newest graduate.
“Thank you for your service and congratulations,” business director Bruce Lamprecht said.
Remhof’s wife and daughter (Jessica Anderson) were able to attend to see Remhof receive his diploma.
“I know it’s been in the back of his mind all these years,” Cheryl Remhof said. “I guess I didn’t know how much it bothered him. I’m glad that he pursued it. I’m really proud of him.”
Jones said he invited Marc Remhof to receive his diploma or speak at this year’s graduation ceremony on Friday, but he declined.
“I tried to get him to be part of the ceremony,” Jones said. “But being as humble as he is, he didn’t want to take away from the kids.”
Remhof said, “This is their time. Not mine.”
But Remhof does have a strong message to share — something he said he might consider sometime in the future.
“I think education is so important,” he said. “And getting your high school diploma is the cornerstone of your future.”
Joining the military was a positive direction for Remhof, though. Just not before obtaining his diploma.
“I needed to have discipline and I didn’t realize that,” Remhof said. “I knew I was an underachiever — I just didn’t realize the term until later. You look at the yearbook and there’s nothing by my name. I didn’t complete anything. Zero. I was just lost.”
Remhof said he grew up very quickly in the Navy, adding that you had to do everything the right way.
“They’d do punishment, which involved physical stuff,” he said. “You’d have to march in place and you’d have to have your rifle out in front of you. But you couldn’t do that on Sundays outside because the people on the hill in San Diego (California) would look down and say, ‘You can’t be doing that to those poor young boys.’ So they’d bring you into the barracks.”
One time, then 18-year-old Remhof decided to stick the barrel of his rifle under his mattress because his arms were getting really sore holding it out in front of him. He got caught and had three people on top of him screaming at him.
“I paid a horrible price,” Remhof said. “Ever have to do pushups on your knuckles with a gun and on the asphalt? You learn that cheating is not the way to go. This is where I learned not to be an underachiever — where I learned to get my act together real quick.”
Remhof said a lot of people — both men and women — need structure.
“I would’ve never survived at a college because there was too much free time,” he said. “Somebody like me needed that structure. The Navy was a place to grow up. I needed somebody to show me that there’s a right way and a wrong way. And there’s (the military) way until you figure it out.”
Throughout his entire flying career, Remhof said he is extremely grateful that “the takeoffs equaled the landing, which is always good.” He added that his proudest memories were of flying during Desert Storm.
“I was bringing troops in to the war zone — you have a real sick feeling because you know what they’re going to do — but when we brought them back out, that was the fun part,” Remhof said. “Bringing the troops home was the best part.”
Some of Remhof’s most enjoyable experiences include flying World War II veteran to Washington, D.C., during Honor Flights.
“That was volunteer,” he said. “You’d look at the schedule and say, ‘Oh, there an Honor Flight. I’m going to grab this one.’ Those were fantastic. Those people are amazing. That generation is just incredible.”
Remhof took a few southwest Minnesota veterans on Honor Flights from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“There are hidden gems here in these small towns,” Remhof said. “You have some amazing veterans in these town.”
Retirement plans include spending time with family. Not surprisingly, those plans also include flying.
“We bought a little 1946 airplane about three weeks ago,” the 66-year-old said. “Being the pilot that I am, I have all the answers — I spent many years flying with computers and all the navigational stuff. But this airplane doesn’t have anything.
“It’s 90 miles per hour was all it flies,” Remhof said about the small airplane. “That’s compared to about 500 miles per hour (Sun Country flights).”