SZILAGYI, Gyorgy “George”

Posted: July 20th, 2022


GYORGY “GEORGE” SZILAGYI, of Lethbridge, beloved husband of Thresea “Joan” Szilagyi, passed away peacefully at St. Michael’s Health Centre Palliative Care Unit, on Thursday, July 14, 2022 at the age of 89 years.

Gyorgy was born in the farming village of Nyirbrany in Hungary, March 23, 1933. It was a Thursday.

He was the seventh child of nine; his mother fell ill after the birth of his younger brother, so he was largely raised by his older sisters. Life on the farm was marked by hard work, which matched the hard times. They grew a variety of crops for home use, and tobacco for (very little) profit. His childhood memories included often going hungry (except for harvest time); “stealing” wood from the nearby forest to sell for extra money, and running barefoot in winter to a neighbour’s house to get left-over pipe tobacco for his father. He left school to work on the farm full-time after sixth grade, about the time his mother died. Swept up in history, he recalled the German army retreating through his village near the end of the war, and him and his brother running from the advancing scouts of the Red Army while working the fields. After staying on the farm and working odd jobs, he was conscripted into the Hungarian army for mandatory service, and was trained as a chief cook. Finally getting regular meals, he grew six inches during his two years of service.

After the failed revolution in 1956, Gyorgy was advised by his father to leave Hungary for a better life, and with four others escaped across the border to Austria one rainy night, spending over a year in a refugee camp before immigrating to Canada.

In Canada with little education or language, he relied on his endless capacity for hard work. Picking tobacco in Ontario or working construction in Alberta, he was among the last of the workers let go at the end of the season or job, a testament to his work ethic. He met Thresea Joan Walsh at a dancehall in Calgary, and they were married Nov. 24, 1962. Shortly after, he got a permanent job at Canadian Dressed Meats in Lethbridge, where he and Joan moved to begin a family, eventually including four children.

Gyorgy worked as much overtime as possible at a demanding job to provide for his family. He also worked numerous side jobs, roto-tilling gardens in the evenings, and doing farm work on weekends. He was proud to have helped put all four children through post-secondary studies. By the standard he set for his role as a father, he was tireless and an undeniable success.

Gyorgy began a much-deserved retirement in 1994. He found immense satisfaction in the garden, tending paprika plants grown from seed, and trying to grow watermelons and grapes like on the farm in Hungary. His great pastime was fishing, where Joan was happy to read in the boat while he cast his line. He was an enthusiastic self-taught musician, playing the traditional Hungarian citera, and cooked his favourite foods regularly. He found friendship and fellowship with other ex-pat Hungarians. Like him, they were frugal with money but generous with time, helping each other when a garage needed to be built, a roof needed shingling, or sausage needed making. Though Gyorgy returned regularly to visit family in Hungary, and was more fully himself around Hungarians despite his many decades in Canada, he never regretted his choice to come to Canada despite the language and cultural challenges, certain that he had a much better life here than the one that Hungary offered.

He was proud of the accomplishments of his children and an even prouder nagypapa to his grandchildren, Adriana, Fiona, Andrew, Elijah, Rain, Grace and Cache.

As a senior, he took great pleasure when he and Joan provided much appreciated gifts of cash to family at yearly gatherings, the ongoing rewards of their previous hard work and savings. His words at these occasions were invariably, “Love each other. Help each other. And do the best that you can.”

Gyorgy’s health began to decline late last year. He was hospitalized in mid-April, and transferred to St. Michael’s for palliative care shortly after, where he was tended with great care and compassion. He rallied for a precious few weeks, giving family the chance to tell him he was loved, to thank him for his hard work, and to assure him that Joan would be taken care of. He loved us. He helped us. He did the best that he could.

Having made peace with his family, with God and himself, Gyorgy drew his last breath and passed away in his 90th year on July 14, 2022. It was a Thursday.

Besides his loving wife Joan, he is survived by children Maria (Gene), James, George Jr (Sharla) and Martina (Jeff).

A Prayer Service will be held at CORNERSTONE FUNERAL HOME, 2825 – 32 Street South, Lethbridge, AB, on Wednesday, July 20, 2022 at 7:00 P.M. with Deacon Santiago Torres officiating.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at OUR LADY OF THE ASSUMPTION CATHOLIC CHURCH, 2405 – 12 Avenue South, Lethbridge, AB, on Thursday, July 21, 2022 at 10:00 A.M. with Father Kevin Tumback celebrating.

In lieu of flowers and in memory of George, donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice.


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