By Liz Collin

STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — The attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years ago changed a generation, and this country.

The nation honors the courage, service and sacrifice of our World War II military heroes.

WCCO shares the lasting gift left behind by two Stillwater veterans that mean a brighter future for some students.

Sister Maria Ivana Begovic serves as principal at St. Croix Catholic School.

“This idea that we have these two men who are veterans who lived sacrifice,” Sister Maria Ivana said.

MORE: Pearl Harbor 80th Anniversary: St. Paul Vet Witnessed Attack Firsthand

Brothers John and Jean DeCurtins were both called to serve in the Army in 1941. Retired Army Col. “Buzz” Kriesel became a close friend of Jean.

“He served in every major battle in the African and Italian theater,” Kriesel said.

He says the brothers were quiet men, known for their frugality.

John and Jean DeCurtins (credit: CBS)

“For 90 years they lived in that home together. Two bachelors after their parents had died,” he said.

It’s why when a check arrived after John and Jean both passed, their community was amazed and learned what they were saving for.

“It just came through the mail. Ordinary, regular mailman, and opened it together and there it was,” Sister Maria Ivana said.

That check was for $2.6 million. It will go toward a tuition assistance endowment, allowing more students to attend the school from families who might need financial help.

MORE: ‘He Was One Of A Kind’: 80 Years After His Death At Pearl Harbor, Minnesota Sailor’s Remains Come Home

The gift of education from the greatest generation.

“We should never forget that history and the sacrifices that they made,” Kriesel said. “And what they’ve given to us is actually a legacy. We have to protect that.”

John DeCurtins worked as a surveyor for Washington County. He died in 2018 at 95.

Jean dug holes for Northern States Power and lived to be 100 when he passed a year later. He was the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star as a member of the 34th Infantry Division, known as the Red Bulls.

Liz Collin