Sixty-eight years ago, paratrooper Don Jakeway of Johnstown helped liberate a Jewish family from the German-occupied Netherlands during World War II.

Sixty-eight years ago, paratrooper Don Jakeway of Johnstown helped liberate a Jewish family from the German-occupied Netherlands during World War II.

Last week, Jakeway met the last survivor of that family, thanks to New Albany resident Mark Easton.

Easton said he met Jakeway through a veterans' organization. After hearing Jakeway's story about liberating the Jakobs family from Holland, he set out to find any surviving members of the family.

Through an Internet search, he found Bert Jakobs living in California.

"I called him and said there's someone I think you've got to meet," Easton said.

Jakobs, 78, said he was surprised, especially when he found out that Jakeway had at one time corresponded with Edith Jakobs, his older sister. Jakeway wrote to Edith many years after the war was over.

"I appreciated the opportunity to meet (Jakeway)," Jakobs said. "Mark (Easton) was extremely instrumental in bringing us together. Without him, we never would have met."

The two men shared their stories and some tears Feb. 2 when they spoke at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts to New Albany seventh- and eighth-graders, as well as some high school students taking American history. Easton said the two men also were scheduled to speak to students at the Columbus Jewish Day School Feb. 3 and at schools in the Johnstown-Monroe School District and Granville Exempted Village School District the week of Feb. 6.

Easton's daughter, Annie, is a seventh-grader at New Albany Middle School. He said he talked to Annie and some of her friends about the program before suggesting it to her teacher, Michele Oldenquist. Oldenquist said she "couldn't turn it down."

"I think when you give a firsthand account of shared experiences to students, it conveys the importance of the message in a way that no other way can," said middle school principal Andy Culp.

Jakeway, 89, was 21 years old and had been a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, for three years when he parachuted into Holland on Sept. 17, 1944. The regiment's mission was to gain control of roads, bridges and other communication routes in Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem.

"When we were in Holland fighting the Germans, we never thought about civilians that might be hiding there," Jakeway said.

Several days after landing in Holland, Jakeway and other paratroopers were carrying a wounded soldier back to their base when they heard an SOS call - a Morse code distress signal - coming from a house cellar. Inside the cellar was the Jakobs family: five Jews who had fled Nazi Germany and almost certain commitment to what were then called "labor camps" and later known as concentration camps.

Bert Jakobs was 10 years old at the time. He said his family asked to go with the Americans, and they were allowed to follow the paratroopers into a nearby village, ducking bullets the entire way.

The paratroopers and the Jakobs family made it to Nijmegen, where American troops were based. The Jakobs family found an empty home vacated by Nazi sympathizers and stayed there until they were evacuated.

When the family left Germany in 1942, Jakobs said, they were given 10 percent of what their property and possessions were worth. They fled to Holland and encountered the same policies against Jews.

Jakobs said his family paid a Dutch farmer to hide them from the Germans. He lived in the attic with his mother and father, Frieda and Alan, and his two sisters, Edith and Rosa. A fourth child, Rosa's twin brother, Martin, hid with a neighbor's family.

All but one member of the Jakobs family survived the war. Rosa, the oldest sister, was killed in Holland during a bombing. Jakobs said Rosa had written in her diary that she was desperate, even after being liberated.

"She wrote, 'I hope that a bomb will kill me,' and that's what happened," Jakobs said.

Jakobs said in Germany, family members could not go to school, to parks or movies. In Holland, they could not go outside for fear of being discovered.

Jakeway said that is one of the reasons he is proud of his actions during the war.

"I learned a lot from my experiences with these people," Jakeway said. "Not being able to walk to the park, ride a bicycle or go to school, imagine having all of that taken away from you.

"I was pleased to see Bert (Jakobs) and am glad he was able to be here with us today. I want to thank Mark (Easton) for the highlight of my life."

Jakobs' trip to Ohio was funded through Easton's family and friends, Easton said.