MARENGO, Iowa (CBS/KGAN) -- We often lose track of the artifacts that make up our family history like old documents or photographs. But we never expect them to end up in the trash. A garbage man combined his job and love for history to make one family very happy.
The guys at S & J Sanitation don't just pick up your garbage, they find your valuables. Along Mark Albert's routes, he finds Tonka trucks, old newspapers, used Halloween decor. Anything to add to the shop's personality back in Marengo. He says, "it's like, why are they throwing this away?"
But this collector and self-proclaimed history buff made his biggest discovery right under his employers' roof, a diploma for a man who graduated from neighboring Blairstown 86 years ago.
Where the high school once stood is now a basketball court. Mark didn't know how long the diploma had been there and nobody knew how it got there.
Even after it was found, it sat for weeks before really catching mark's attention. He says, "I thought, 'Who is this?' Lester Nieland. Well, I knew Lester Nieland."
Not directly. Lester was once a driver's license examiner. But his wife viola was mark's sixth grade teacher for of all classes, history. He says, "If somebody had something like that of one of my family, I'd sure like to have it."
so with that, after hours of work and months of planning, mark organized a meeting with Lester's only son bob. Mark says, "found his phone number and called him." bob says, "nobody had ever told us there was a missing diploma anywhere. But it was fantastic to hear from him."
An old New Zealander proverb says "walk in the valley of our ancestors, learn of the history." Bob says, "It's a little bit of the family history we're going to cherish."
An unexpected heirloom thanks to a guy with a knack for the past.
Bob Nieland is a family doctor in North Carolina. He's in town for a high school reunion of all things. He says they'll clean up the 1926 diploma as best they can to hang it up at home.