Alabama high school helps stage graduation for sick father

An Alabama man suffering from late-stage cancer got to see his son graduate from high school with help from school officials and his family.

Mike Bowden had stage four liver and bile duct cancer that would have made it impossible for him to attend his son’s graduation from Russell County High School in Seale, Alabama near the Georgia border, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported Friday.

So his wife, Jessie, asked high school assistant principal Christopher Baker whether she could borrow a cap and gown to conduct a ceremony at home. She also asked Baker whether he would be willing to attend and hand a fake diploma to her and Mike Bowden’s son, also Michael Bowden.

School administrators agreed, and they and the family surprised the elder Bowden with a graduation ceremony on April 25.

"‘Mike Bowden, you are invited to the graduation of Michael David Bowden Jr.,’" Jessie Bowden recalled announcing as school officials in graduation robes marched in while a recording of "Pomp and Circumstance" played.

Tears welled up in his eyes.

"He didn’t know what to say," Jessie Bowden said, "but the look on his face was priceless."

Principal Tonya Keene gave Michael Bowden Jr. his real diploma. Mike Bowden Sr. died at home on May 9, two weeks before the official graduation. He was 64.

"I know he died a very proud daddy," Jessie Bowden said.