US couple leaves $850K life savings to… America
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US couple leaves $850K life savings to… America

Peter and Joan Petrasek both survived World War II; US official believes gesture expresses gratitude to adopted country

Illustrative photo: The Holocaust memorial at Terezin, Czech Republic on January 27, 2015 (Times of Israel/Marissa Newman)
Illustrative photo: The Holocaust memorial at Terezin, Czech Republic on January 27, 2015 (Times of Israel/Marissa Newman)

While many complain about how much the government is taking out of their paychecks, one Seattle couple decided it hadn’t been enough.

Peter and Joan Petrasek left their total accumulated wealth, of cash in the bank and sale of their West Seattle home, 1977 Ford Granada and gun collection, to the US government, The Seattle Times reported.

The couple had no next of kin.

A cashier’s check for $847,215.57 was made out to the Department of Treasury.

Peter Petrasek died on May 5, 2015, aged 85 from a heart condition.

His wife Joan had died 13 years earlier aged 79 after a battle with breast cancer.

A spokesman for the Treasury says it doesn’t specifically track how many people have willed their estates to the government, but it does happen. The money will go into the general fund.

Their neighbor and friend of 30 years, Ron Wright told the Seattle Times that all Peter had told him was “it’ll all be taken care of.”

Mr. Wright said that Mr. Petrasek had grown up during the Nazi occupation of his native Czech Republic and appeared to have lost his mother and father to the Holocaust.

His sister died in the Allied bombing of Dresden, Germany, where she worked in a factory during the war.

Mr. Petrasek himself recalled being put in a youth camp associated with the Nazi air force, the Luftwaffe.

Mr. Wright told the Seattle Times that his plane was shot down and he hiked into Switzerland before making it to the US as a refugee.

It is unclear when he met his wife but the couple married at St. Joseph’s Rectory in Ottawa, Canada, according to their personal documents, when Peter was 25 and Joan was 32.

The neighbors would occasionally go flying together in Mr. Wright’s small plane.

The couple settled in Seattle were Mr. Petrasek worked at Bethlehem Steel as a metallurgist. Joan ended up as an upholsterer.

The couple saved their money and lived a simple lifestyle, only ever taking one out of state vacation to Hawaii, their neighbor said.

Peter Winn, the assistant US attorney in Seattle, who worked on the couple’s estate, had another idea: “As a refugee from World War II, he was very grateful to his adopted country.

“He grew up with a lot of people in Eastern Europe who would have been happy to change places with him… He wanted to make a statement about how much it meant to him to be an American citizen.”

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