SEATTLE - When a West Seattle couple passed away, they left their entire inheritance to the U.S. Government. And to understand why, you only need to hear the story of how they came to the U.S. in the first place.
The U.S. Attorney’s office recently processed the check for $847,215.57. It was the entire estate of Peter and Joan Petrasek. They lived a quiet life in West Seattle.
“They were great neighbors,” said Ron Wright, who lived next door to the Petraseks for 30 years.
But the will giving the money to the federal government surprised him and neighbor Marisa Deligerza.
“We thought, 'Oh my Gosh,'” said Deligerza. “Honestly, we thought there were some other great places he could give it to, but we thought he really must have just appreciated the opportunity he had here in the U.S.”
Joan, an Irish immigrant, died in 1999. Peter, an immigrant from what was then Czechoslovakia, died in 2012 at age 85.
Carrie Balkema was the attorney who handled their will after Peter’s death. It took her three years to track everything down. She told KIRO 7 it makes more sense after going through the couple's immigrant history.
Peter made it out alive during the Nazi reign. His family didn't, according to neighbors.
“He mentioned that they had passed away and we figured not in a good way,” said Deligerza. “They died in the war, he called it.”
Ron Wright occasionally talked to Peter about his experiences with the Nazis. Petrasek's journey from the former Czechoslovakia to West Seattle was truly remarkable. He told Wright at one point, he was put in a German Air Force camp for youth. Whether it was there or somewhere else, he learned how to fly.
Though Wright was surprised the U.S. government got their estate, he says it makes sense.
“Letting him pursue everything,” said Wright. “His education, work wise, and owning a home.”
The U.S. attorney's office can't say exactly where the money will go, it's now in a general fund. But the Petrasek's gratitude for our great country and freedom is clear.