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Photo: Timothy Archibald

Doers’ Profiles

Fred Ptucha, A65

HOME: Santa Rosa, California

HIS CALLING: Peace activism. Maintains that “we need to spend our tax dollars to educate smart kids instead of building smart bombs.” Cofounded three groups: Chapter 71 of Vietnam Veterans for Peace, which describes itself as being “dedicated to the abolishment of war”; Sister Cities, an organization committed to strengthening relations between Santa Rosa and Cherkasy, Ukraine; and Climbers for Peace, which promotes goodwill and cooperation among people of different cultures as they strive to scale formidable peaks.

HIS CRUCIBLE: Four tours of duty as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star for “exceptional initiative, courage under fire, and selfless devotion to duty,” according to the citation by his commander. But his experience included such dark moments as the time a nineteen-year-old GI died in his arms during a medevac helicopter mission. “His last words were ‘These Vietnamese peasants don’t want us here. What the f*** are we doing here?’ ”

CIVILIAN EMPLOYMENT: Financial adviser. Finds satisfaction in “helping clients of modest means gradually achieve financial objectives.”

HOW HE UNWINDS: Skiing, sailing, cycling, photography, gardening, backpacking, and running with his best friend, Paul Sejud, a fellow Navy vet. “We have run over fifteen thousand miles in the past seventeen years.”

DEFINING TRAITS: Energy, compassion, commitment. Devoted family man who delights in the antics of his grandchildren and treasures the long-ago wisdom of his father, a World War II Marine colonel. “When I was twenty-two and about to be deployed to Vietnam, he said, ‘The Navy will tell you to always focus on the mission. Focus on taking care of the men under your command, and they will take care of the mission.’ I always tried to follow his advice.”

HEALING JOURNEY: His return to Vietnam as part of the Vietnam Veterans Restoration Project. Villagers whose houses he was helping to rebuild would typically “have a big feast with many toasts of rice wine to ‘peace and friendship between the Vietnamese and American people.’ I realized that if these Vietnamese veterans who had suffered so much could forgive me, then maybe it was OK for me to forgive myself.”

HIS EDUCATION: B.A., Tufts (political science, Russian)


Photo: John Soares


HOME: Brookline, Massachusetts

FOUNDER OF: The Kids Clothes Club, a nonprofit that provides new winter coats for children in need. The idea got its start some twenty years ago, on a cold, snowy day when her son’s six-year-old classmate and a younger brother showed up at her door without gloves or scarves or winter coats. One wore split-open plastic cowboy boots, the other sneakers with his toes sticking out. “I bought warm clothes for them, but then noticed that other students at my son’s school were also inadequately dressed.”

HER CASE AGAINST HAND-ME-DOWNS: “Everyone from teachers to social workers to crossing guards tells us that the kids we serve never have anything new. A new winter coat that’s theirs and theirs alone says to them ‘You’re important. You matter.’ ”

DAY BRIGHTENER: Seeing Kids Clothes Club customers in their winter finery. “I remember one girl—she was a vision in pink, looking warm and fabulous on a cold day.”

CANINE COMPANIONSHIP: Three Jack Russell terriers, all smart, funny, and obsessed. “One is crazy about Frisbees. One loves balls so much that he keeps jumping at the TV whenever we watch the Red Sox. And one is an avid tree climber—he draws crowds every time we take him to the park.”

GUILTY PLEASURE: True Blood, HBO’s serial about Bon Temps, Louisiana, and the vampires, werewolves, witches, and other supernatural personages who, along with an assortment of human beings, call it home.

DEFINING TRAITS: Warmth, initiative, zest; a fan of instant gratification. “That’s what’s great about community organizing—you can see a problem and get to work on it right away, instead of having to go through all kinds of bureaucracy.” Finds comfort and joy in her family, hope in the ideals of the younger generation, and inspiration in obituaries. “I read them and think, ‘I wish I’d known that person.’ I’m always reminded that my time on earth is fleeting and that it’s up to me to do something with it.”

NEW PASSION: Her burgeoning landscape design company, Faithful Flowers. “I’ve always had an interest in design, texture, color.”

HER EDUCATION: B.A., Tufts (Plan of Study major in TV, film, and child study)

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