Obituary for Paul Tavaszi
Paul achieved the immigrant’s dream of making a better life for himself and his family in a beautiful and welcoming land that he was proud to call home.
He was born in the pastoral village of Pesthidegkut in the hills northwest of Budapest Hungary on January 19, 1928, the sixth of seven children, only four surviving into adulthood. War disrupted his carefree childhood, and when he was sixteen, he was snatched off the street by a passing army unit, and pressed into military service. Sent to Poland with a gun and no training, he was soon a prisoner of the Russians. Wounded and living in appalling conditions, he was lucky to survive.
After the war, his family was expelled from Hungary despite having lived there for many generations. His father had even been required to change his surname from “Tauner” to something Hungarian because he was a civil servant. He chose “Tavaszi”, meaning “spring”. Paul’s family joined the 13+ million other ethnic Germans shipped to Germany under the Allies’ Potsdam Agreement. These “Displaced Persons” (DPs) lost their citizenship, livelihoods, homes, and all possessions aside from what each person could carry in one suitcase.
In former army barracks in the medieval, storybook town of Mosbach, Baden, near Heidelberg, Paul met his future wife, Katharina (Katie) Altvater, who came from another displaced family from Hungary. He was just 21 she, not yet 18 when they married in 1949, already planning their escape to a better land.
Two years later, their daughter, Gabriele, was born in the barracks. In 1954, they finally received their papers to immigrate to Canada, and embraced that challenge with all the enthusiasm, and occasional trepidation, of pioneers.
Paul was required to arrive first and secure a steady job for at least three months before Katie and Gabriele could join him. He worked in the tobacco fields near Delhi for a Hungarian farmer whose son – John Thomas - had started a new business in Lindsay, manufacturing TV antennas. Paul had tinkered with radios as a boy, and worked with German engineer Felix Wankel – inventor of the Wankel engine – at NSU Motorenwerke. Paul was eager to become an engineer as well, so it was an amazing opportunity.
Katie and Gabriele were already well underway when they received a telegram advising them to change their destination. Paul met the weary travellers at the Lindsay train station, eager and excited to show them their new home. Because Katie loved the movies, he took them to the cinema that evening!
Most townspeople embraced them warmly, often with great generosity, and they blossomed in Lindsay. Paul found his calling at Lindsay Antenna, and took night courses in Peterborough to upgrade his math and science credentials to become a proficient engineer. He relished the creative process of designing new machinery.
In 1959, their family was complete with the birth of Victor (Vic).
A year later, Paul and Katie built their first and only house themselves, brick by brick, with some help from relatives who had joined them in Canada. Paul loved woodworking, and built cabinets for their home, applying the demanding technique of French polishing until they gleamed. Over the years he crafted refectory tables, bookcases, curio cabinets, and many other items, often for his children and grandchildren, who treasure them.
As a life-long learner with a keen intellect, Paul had many passions, especially in the sciences. He was an avid chemist, and had an impressive lab in the basement. With scientific methods, he took up winemaking, buying grapes from the experimental farm in Niagara in the 1970s. There were many tasty batches over the years, but when carboys exploded and flooded the basement with about 50 gallons of his best wine, he finally decided it was easier and cheaper to buy it.
In the ‘70s, he took the role of Chief Engineer with Trent Rubber in Lindsay. Paul was one of the partners who eventually bought the company, becoming VP for Engineering.
He became involved in the Industrial Training Committee as a volunteer, with a stint as President. In that role he travelled to Europe under the auspices of the Ontario government to investigate other approaches to education and apprenticeship in the trades.
Adventuresome, he and Katie enjoyed travelling and playing tennis. They worked tirelessly to keep the Lindsay Tennis Club active and self-sufficient - with Paul presiding as President for some years - and it wasn’t unusual to see them putting up fencing or doing other chores about the club, which became like a second home in the summer.
A cheerful, restless spirit with boundless energy, Paul was happiest when busy with work or a project, and spending time with family and friends, who dropped in constantly. When he and Katie ran out of things to do to their house, which they had been expanding and perfecting for 30 years, they decided to build a cottage on an island, ignoring their children’s rather feeble objections that seniors shouldn’t be scaling ladders and laying hardwood floors. Never doing things by halves, he and Vic even built a pontoon boat to transport supplies and furniture to the island. Katie had little time to enjoy this beloved retreat, as she succumbed to cancer in 2000.
Battling his own cancer for the second time, Paul was devastated to lose her. They had been married for 51 years, sharing an incredible journey that neither would have imagined in their youth.
Paul was devoted to his family, and will be remembered with joy and love by Gabriele, John, and Melanie Wills, and Vic, Laurie, Alex, and Alyssa Tavaszi.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the G. Magnotta Foundation for Vector-Borne Diseases.