Anthony Malone of Middletown, Conn., died eight years ago at age 83 - when the 11th grade international history students at the Vineyard Christian Home School Co-op in Boise were in second or third grade.
But the students know about him. They know he served in World War II as a medic. They started their investigation from a peculiar place: Malone's Army helmet, in which he wrote his name, company and Army serial number.
Their teacher, Dennis Mansfield got the helmet in 1971 as a gag gift from his father. For 37 years, Mansfield carted around the helmet. Then Mansfield brought it to his students and gave them a mission: Find out about the man who wrote his name in the leather lining.
For two weeks, they Googled, read a newspaper obit and studied the military unit - 16th Battalion Medical Detachment - to which Malone belonged.
They typed Malone's serial number into Google and discovered he had been in the Army. Malone joined the service in 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into the war.
Students also discovered the whereabouts of Malone's family, when they found his obituary online.
Family members didn't know what to make of the initial calls from students. But as they came to know the students and Mansfield, they embraced the work the students had done.
Malone - everyone called him Tony - was like many World War II vets and didn't talk much about his war experience, family members say.
Malone's family filled in some of the blanks the students hadn't learned about his life. He told Decker he joined the Army because he thought it was the only way he'd ever see Europe.
Boy, did he see Europe. Records show his unit was in Sicily, mainland Italy and France.
After the war, Malone returned to his hometown of Middletown to work for the Goodyear Rubber Co., cutting the soles for sneakers, and later for Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft engine company, working as a sheet-metal welder. Morin remembers him going to work at 3 a.m.
He helped raise a family and put his daughters through college, and he laid some money aside to help his grandchildren. "He was a hard worker," Morin said.
The history students hope a relative can come to Boise, meet them and receive the helmet. They are looking to see if they can cobble together frequent-flyer miles to help bring a relative to Boise. Family members are discussing it, but they hope some of the students can go east and meet the family. "It would mean so, so much," Decker said. "I think it is wonderful."
Either way, Malone's family says having the helmet is special to them and their mother.
Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick has donated enough frequent-flyer miles to send 10 students and the teacher to personally deliver the helmet to Mr. Malone's family. What a great thing to do! Thank you Congressman Minnick!