Rolleen Taysom had a lot of common worries about graduation. What if she fell? What if she was too slow?
But, with 87-year-old Taysom walking alongside her great-granddaughter, Shae Spencer, none of that mattered.
“I’m not worried because I’ve got her with me,” Taysom said.
Taysom received an honorary high school diploma from Lehi High School Friday morning during the school’s graduation at the UCCU Center.
Taysom, known as Rolleen Littlefield in her youth, dropped out of Beaver High School as a junior.
“My dad died and we didn’t have any money coming in so I took a job to help mother,” she said.
She met her husband, the late Newell Taysom, shortly after. They were married in 1947 and owned Taysom Tire Service. She has two children, nine grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Her diploma was awarded based on life experience, but Taysom never expected to get one.
“I just never thought of it at all,” Taysom said. “I just thought, that’s it. I’ll never get to go.”
But, then one day, she was sitting in her family room and announced to her relatives she wanted to graduate. Her granddaughter and Shae’s mother, Mindy Spencer, said she would try to make it happen. Mindy and Shae met with Alpine School District’s superintendent and received Taysom’s transcript from Beaver High School.
“She did really well on grades,” Mindy said. “She had As and Bs.”
The problem, they found, wasn’t that Taysom was missing many credits to graduate, but rather the vastly different graduation requirements between when she attended high school then and what they are now.
Beaver High School wanted Taysom to graduate there, the family said, but Taysom had different plans.
“She wants to walk with Shae, and Shae is walking at Lehi, so that’s where we’re going,” Mindy said.
The family sent out separate graduation announcements for Taysom and Shae, along with a combined one featuring photos from a shoot of them together. In one picture, Taysom flashes two thumbs up. In the other photo, the two graduates pose together in their white caps and gowns in front of a chalkboard wall with “Finally!” written on it.
After graduation, Shae has plans to attend Utah Valley University and then pursue police work. For the great-granddaughter, graduating with her great-grandmother is surreal, but sweet.
“Now that it’s here, it’s weird because it’s really happening,” Shae said.
Shae’s uncle offered to take Taysom to prom (she declined) and Taysom doesn’t have plans to attend an all-night senior celebration or pursue a college degree.
Carol Allred, Taysom’s daughter, remembers her own graduation from American Fork High School. Her father, a people person who adored his family and died in 2004, frantically and in front of the snickering crowd, waved at her from his seat.
“He would be so proud of her,” Allred said.
For Taysom’s family, their grandma doing the unexpected isn’t new to them.
“She is the funnest grandma,” Mindy said. “We have videos of her being on the hoverboard.”