JOE Ptak made a splash in 2010 by daring to ask why people were not saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a political debate in Illinois sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
The stuffy moderator's answer was because she said so. Patriotism is unfashionable in certain circles.
She admonished the crowd to behave and not pledge their allegiance to the flag.
Being adults and not schoolchildren, the grownups went ahead and said the pledge because they love their country.
I wrote a column about this remarkable story and over the years, Ptak has corresponded with me.
His most recent missive was about his father's death.
Joe's obituary for Wladyslaw "Wally" Ptak, 83, explained how Joe became half-Polish, half-Peruvian — and all-American.
"In 1942 the Nazis took him from his home to a work camp in France," Joe wrote.
"He was a 13-year-old little boy. He never saw his father again, and the mother he cherished so much had already died when he was 10 years old.
"In 1944 he, along with his friend escaped, they became partisans; they lied about their age, and then they joined the Polish Army.
"He served and fought in Italy, under a British command. He was not able to return to his hometown of Pilica until 30 years later in 1972, accompanied by my Peruvian mother."
After the war, Wally couldn't go home. Communists had taken over Poland.
"My father boarded a refugee workboat for single males and sailed to Peru," Joe wrote.
"There, God finally blessed him with his soul-mate for life — my mother, Emma Rosa Ptak. My father traveled thousands of miles from his hometown, before finding his 'Angel on Earth.'