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WWII survivor receives honorary diploma

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — On her 88th birthday, Agnes “Neng” Duenas Perez received her honorary high school diploma, decades after having to give up school in her younger years due to World War II and the needs of her family.

Agnes “Neng” Duenas Perez

“It’s something we’ve been meaning to do for the longest time. If anybody deserves this, she does,” said her son, Danny. “She gave up her education and her whole life for others to receive their education.”

Born April 13, 1930, the eldest of eight kids, Perez was in the fourth grade when World War II wreaked havoc on the island. She discontinued her education to seek safety with her family.

She remembers being tied up and beaten by Japanese militia alongside her father, Jose Cruz Duenas, for a theft he didn’t commit. She also recalls pulling weeds and clearing farm land in the Naval Air Station area of Tiyan.

However, her family escaped the ravages of war and rebuilt their lives, resettling in Hagåtña and Toto.

Though she wanted to continue her education, her father died two months after Guam’s liberation. Being the eldest child, she stayed home to care for her younger siblings, including the late former Sen. Herminia Duenas Dierking.

Afterward, she and her husband, the late Mauro “Sufat” Martinez Perez, raised 11 children. She supported their education by sending them to Catholic schools.

Celebrating her birthday Friday, her kids returned their mother’s love and support by surprising her with the honorary diploma, presented to her by members of the Guam Education Board. She also was presented a resolution from the Guam Legislature by Sen. Joe San Agustin.

“Thank you, I didn’t expect this,” Perez said through tears. “I love you all.”

“My kids are so thoughtful,” she later told The Guam Daily Post. “They’re always checking on me, taking turns to stay with me. All of them take care of me.”