LEE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – It was an emotional and unforgettable moment for a Lee High School senior who received his diploma early so his dying father could see it happen.
Chastin Huff received his high school diploma from school administrators in an impromptu ceremony at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport.
His father David Hughes was there in his hospital bed, battling an aggressive cancer that was diagnosed just a week before.
Hughes did not have much time left to live.
“It was nine days between when we found out and the day he died,” Huff said.
It was Chastin’s wish that his dad sees him graduate high school. As he was reconciling with the expected loss of his father, he came to Lee High School Principal Brian Coomer with the idea of a graduation at the hospital last Tuesday.
“I really didn’t consider it a favor,” Coomer said. “I just considered it something anybody should do or would do in the same situation.”
It took school officials less than 24 hours to have all the supplies needed. They secured a diploma and a cap and gown.
“They overnighted us a cap and gown,” Coomer said. “It was kind of a team effort.”
Coomer credited fellow administrators Walter Shell, Tyler Mullins, office staff and guidance counselors with making the ceremony a reality.
Last Wednesday, Chastin received that diploma in front of his dying father, family and hospital staff.
“I just ran to my dad, and I gave him a hug and said I finally did it for you,” Huff said. “We just held each other for two minutes and just cried and couldn’t do anything.”
Hughes was actually Chastin’s uncle but had raised him since he was five years old.
Chastin said he will remember his dad for his service as a dispatcher at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and his passion for the outdoors and his motorcycle.
“He loved to go fishing,” Huff said. “That was his main thing. If he needed to clear his mind, he went fishing.”
Hughes died last Thursday, just a day after the graduation ceremony. He was 60 years old.
For Chastin, it was a special moment to share that milestone before his dad passed.
“He told me he was proud of me, but words couldn’t express how he felt,” Huff said. “It not only meant a lot to him, but it meant a lot to me, my sister and my mom.”
Chastin returned to school Tuesday to formally finish the rest of his high school learning.
Coomer said his friends, peers and teachers are there for the young man.
“We’re a small community like a lot of Southwest Virginia towns are, and a lot of those people have come together with an outpouring of support,” Coomer said.
Chastin said he’s re-adjusting to his routine, taking it in the words of his mother: “One day at a time.”
He is also the school’s student government president and plans to honor his father in his speech at the school’s formal graduation ceremony in May.