After 96 years, a Hume Fogg High diploma is back where it belongs

Posted at 8:37 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-19 13:53:39-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Chances are, if it was once lost, Thomas Hatfield with Metro Nashville Public Schools has found it. "Too good to throw away," explained Hatfield.

Most of what Metro School's unofficial historian finds is in old school buildings, except for one he found on vacation. "We were shopping in a little consignment shop in Daytona Beach Florida," said Hatfield.

He found a 1924 diploma from Hume Fogg High School with the name -- Aaron Wasserman printed on the front. "Gave 2 dollars for it because when I see Nashville Public Schools I think - man I I’ve gotta have this," said Hatfield.

That discovery was more than 30 years ago. Ever since, it's decorated his wall but plagued his heart. "People would always ask -- who was Mr. Wasserman?" he said.

So as the retirement clock ticked louder for Hatfield, so did the urge to find out just who Wasserman was.

So he got help from Metro School's social media team. They tweeted out a picture of the diploma back in October. That got the attention of the Nashville Jewish Federation who put Leona Fleisher on the case.

"I like to be an investigator I guess," admitted Fleisher.

Leona started with the federation's vast trove of obituaries. She eventually found one for Aaron's wife, Frances Wasserman. More importantly, it listed the couple's survivors. "And that’s where I found the name of her daughters Nancy and Lanie Rose," she said.

Leona figured out that Lanie Rose now lives in Houston, Texas but couldn't find her phone number. After sleuthing through a few synagogue bulletins, she found confirmation that Rose attended a particular synagogue in Houston and called them up. "I said let me leave my contact information and please have them get in touch with me and this is why -- we have her father’s diploma and the Metro School Board would like to return it," said Fleisher.

Just hours after that call -- the two connected.

"They told us that they had my father’s high school diploma," explained Lanie Wasserman Rose. "Really to remember my father after all these years, it’s just a wonderful thing."

She says having the diploma back isn't just a memento, it's almost symbolic. "[Dad] always valued education. Our parents never even let us know that people might not go to college," said Rose.

It also seems to illustrate what Leona and Thomas value too. "Oh it’s so nice to be appreciated for what you do," said Fleisher.

"It made my heart so happy, because she was so happy," said Hatfield.

It only seems to prove, in order to return what is lost, first you have to find a little kindness. "A kindness can just multiply and touch so many people. One act of kindness makes so much difference," said Rose.

Lanie Rose has been showing off the diploma to all of her relatives that were born after her father's death. She says she's already picked out a beautiful spot in her office to hang the diploma.