Purple Heart medal returned to Malin

Malin, Ore. – The Coos County Sheriff makes a special delivery to the town of Malin, to honor an airman who died in the line of duty 75 years ago.

Emil Patucek received his high school diploma at the Broadway Theater in Malin, where Friday’s events were held.

“Emil Grew up in Malin, attended school at Malin High School, graduated in 1937.”  Notes Ryan Bartholomew of the Malin Historical Society.  “Big star on the football field, known as a very good dancer throughout southern Oregon.”

Bartholomew adds Patucek served as a B-17 pilot during World War II.  “On the eighth mission, his left wing was hit by flak – the wing snapped in half, the plane went out of control, and disintegrated – and 7 on board were killed instantly.”

Only three men survived the crash.

Potucek’s Purple Heart somehow found its way to the Oregon coast.

“20 years ago, the Coos County Sheriff’s Office found a chest along the side of the road.”  Explains Bartholomew.  “And in the chest was this Purple Heart.”

The medal sat in evidence until earlier this year, when the Sheriff’s Office put a post on Facebook to try and find Potucek’s relatives.

His nephew Kirk Kirkpatrick had been looking for the Purple Heart.

Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni delivered the medal to Malin today in person.  “We felt that it was our privilege to return them.”

A formal ceremony was held at the Broadway Theater to mark the return of the medal.

‘They gave everything they could give.”  Sheriff Zanni noted.  “This is our way of honoring not only those who gave their lives, but all those who served.”

Emil Potucek’s Purple Heart will eventually be placed on public display at the Malin Museum.

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