Audrey Huber practically levitated across the stage on the day she received her high school diploma — handed to her with great pride by her daughter, ReNae Bowman.

Graduating, at age 73, was her mother's crowning achievement, Bowman said. It didn't matter that she'd earned a Graduate Equivalency Degree, that it took her a couple of years, or that she went to school along with a diverse set of poor and immigrant adults who were all trying to better themselves, Bowman said. Huber was finally able to overcome what had been a long-held secret shame. She had never graduated from high school.

"My mother, being the woman she was, ended up friends with all these people," said Bowman. "They would bring her food native to their culture. They all adopted each other."

Huber died Dec. 28. She was 87.

Huber was born and raised on the North Dakota prairies, and she lived a life typical of farm families of that time and place. She started school (and on her first day came home to announce she had met the man she would marry — Dale Huber), but quit after eighth grade to work.

While her future husband (he didn't know that at the time) went on to high school, a rare privilege for kids then, she helped a neighboring farm wife in the kitchen and with her kids.

Years later, after Dale Huber returned from serving in World War II, they met again at a dance. Two years later her first-grade prediction came true, and eventually became family lore.

They moved to Minnesota in 1950 and built a house in Golden Valley, where Dale Huber started Huber Heating and Plumbing, the business that his sons still run today. And, later, Audrey started a beauty salon business.

"You know that book, 'Patty Jane's House of Curl,' " Bowman said, referring to a comedic novel written about two Minnesota women in a Lake Wobegon-type town. "That's a book after my own heart. I grew up in that salon."

For decades, Audrey Huber did hair for women from her church and her neighborhood. It was the perfect place for her warm, vivacious personality, and the perfect solution for a woman who couldn't drive and whose husband was often away on business, Bowman said.

"These ladies would come in and get their hair bleached, teased, permed and sprayed, and by time they left they felt really good on the outside and the inside," she said.

And she had that beautiful smile, said Dale Huber. "That was what everyone adored. When she smiled the whole room brightened," he said.

For 55 years Huber also cared for her son Regie, her third of four children, who was born with a heart defect and was one of the first children to receive what was then pioneering cardiac surgery at the University of Minnesota. Over his lifetime, Huber helped take care of him through six open-heart surgeries at the university. He died in 2006.

Then came the day that ReNae Bowman, who was on the Robbinsdale school board at the time, got an urgent call from her mother.

"She called me at work. And very cryptically, she said 'you need to come and talk to me. This is really important,' " Bowman said. When she got to their home, Huber pulled her outside so Dale Huber couldn't hear.

"She said "I don't have my high school diploma,' " Bowman said. "I burst out laughing."

Despite their success in life, their beautiful home and healthy businesses, her mother never felt smart enough or worthy enough, Bowman said. "That not having that high school diploma was just eating at her."

So Bowman sat her down with the women who ran the Robbinsdale adult basic education program. And a few years later, her mother walked across the stage in her cap and gown.

Bowman recalls an older man in the audience said to her, 'I always wanted a high school diploma. Do you think I could get one?' "

She is survived by her husband, Dale, three children — Randy Huber, Renae Bowman and Robin Huber — and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Services have been held.

Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394