After the war, Bickell moved to California, where he met his wife, Anna. They eventually settled in Del City and raised a family. Bickell got his barber's license and cut hair both in Del City and at Tinker Air Force Base before he retired in 1988.
“He had stressed to the kids so much growing up that they get their education,” Anna Bickell said. “I think that stuck with them.”
Keith Bickell said his father's regrets about never getting his diploma ate at him. After the topic came up one night while they were playing board games, he went home and told his wife he was going to help his father get his high school diploma.
Keith Bickell, 59, had seen stories on the news about a program allowing World War II vets to apply for high school diplomas they missed out on during the war. He found the program, gathered together his father's military records and filled out the application.
Eager to help
Officials at Yale schools were eager to help. The Bickells visited the school to make arrangements last month.
“The superintendent met us at the door,” Keith Bickell said. “He knew my father's name. They were very gracious.”
At first, Frances Bickell wasn't sure about wearing a cap and gown during the graduation ceremony, but his children talked him into it, he said. He will walk on stage Saturday, 70 years older than his fellow graduates.
He said he is grateful to get the diploma he always wished he had and thankful for the response from those in the Yale community who have embraced him. But he won't be partying with his fellow graduates afterward.
“We're going to have a family picnic in the park,” Bickell said.