Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A high school grad, 83 years later

Centenarian dropped out to help family through Depression

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Leo Flood, 100, gets his St. Paul's High School graduation diploma from school president Rev. Leonard Altilia (left) as his proud son, retiring Winnipeg Free Press comment editor Gerald Flood, looks on.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Leo Flood, 100, gets his St. Paul's High School graduation diploma from school president Rev. Leonard Altilia (left) as his proud son, retiring Winnipeg Free Press comment editor Gerald Flood, looks on. Photo Store

Post-secondary schools looking to recruit a new high school grad need look no further than Misericordia Place nursing home.

It was a sad day back in 1931 for young Leo Flood when he had to drop out of St. Paul's High School to help his family make it through the Depression.

Flash forward a mere 83 years to Wednesday.

There was Flood in his Sunday best, celebrating his 100th birthday, publishing a book and receiving an honorary degree from St. Paul's.

Asked if he's now planning on a post-secondary education, Flood laughed, "Yeah, I'm sure. They'd have quite a time with me."

"Leo was everything we would want a St. Paul's alumnus to be -- Leo has spent his life giving to others," said St. Paul's president, Rev. Leonard Altilia, who presided at the graduation ceremony.

Altilia had come to the nursing home recently to celebrate mass, and Flood waved him over afterwards.

"He said, 'I'm almost 100 and I went to St. Paul's. The only thing I've ever regretted is not getting a St. Paul's diploma,' " said Altilia.

The priest recounted his meeting with Flood in a newsletter to alumni. "There was an immediate response from the alumni community: 'Give him a diploma,' " Altilia said with a chuckle.

Flood worked into his 90s and lived independently until age 96, but he never got a chance to go back and finish high school.

Flood and his late wife, Lyla, raised eight children and he now has 13 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

How do you live to be 100?

"I just lived and worked -- that's it. If you wanted a load of cordwood, I brought it to you. I've delivered more than one million cords of cordwood," he advised the younger types.

Altilia said this might be the first time St. Paul's High School has taken such a step, and certainly the first time a 100-year-old has graduated. He invited Flood to the high school convocation June 25, an invitation that included a promise of a cap that Flood can throw into the air along with the somewhat younger lads in the graduating class of 2014.

Flood published his memoirs Wednesday, Shy Boy from Lost Horse Hills -- his family lived in Forget, Sask.

He's been a lumberjack, truck driver, shipper and custodian, among many jobs. He rode the rails, even cleaned locomotives at the original roundhouse at The Forks. Most of his working life was with MacMillan Bloedel, a forestry company.

The diploma "is something that's good to get," Flood said. "I never even thought of getting it."

As for his big birthday plans, "having people around is enough."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 B1

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