BARSTOW — There was no pomp and circumstance, but it was a special birthday nonetheless present for 96-year-old Carmela May.

On Dec. 21, Barstow Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Malan attended a birthday party held in Yorba Linda for the former Barstow resident to deliver an honorary high school diploma.

"It was fantastic," Malan said. "It was great. I never had an opportunity to do that before."

Malan received a letter from May's son, Wayne May, which described how scarlet fever cheated his mother from receiving her high school diploma. Carmela May's last name was Guido when she attended Barstow Union High School 78 years ago.

"Recently, Carmela has expressed how much she missed not having the opportunity to graduate with her fellow 1939 classmates," Wayne May said in the letter. "Mom also said she felt embarrassed and hid the fact she did not receive her high school diploma. During one of our visits, she told me that all of the Guido family members had to be quarantined to the house for six weeks. This was due to her younger brother, Larry Guido (class of 1941), was diagnosed with scarlet fever.

"When she returned to school, Carmela asked if she could make up the missed school work by coming in early and staying after hours. She was told this was not possible and that she would not be graduating with her class members. Carmela was devastated over the news."

After receiving the letter, Malan put a item on the Dec. 13 board of trustees meeting agenda to approve the honorary diploma for Carmela May. It was unanimously approved.

"She received cap and tassel and presented with the honorary high school diploma," Malan said. "It was very emotional for her, because she did not get the chance to graduate. It was a great moment for her on her 96th birthday."

Wayne May's letter states that there have been many Guido and May family members graduate from Barstow High School.

"All her family members can attest that Carmela has learned and gained the wisdom, knowledge and perseverance that can only attained through life's experiences," the letter stated. "She has definitely achieved the highest degree possible from the school of life.

Carmela May has two children, six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or mlamb@desertdispatch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter@mlambdispatch.