Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Honor of My Father, Denes Csathy -- London Olympian, 1948

My father, Denes Csathy -- greatest man I have ever known.  Plain and simple.  No flash.  All substance.  Suffered a lot.  Overcame it.  Accomplished great things.  Lived life.  Appreciated life.  The full spectrum.

Most of all, he was a great dad.

Indulge me in this post.

What prompted me to write this -- my first formal tribute to my father -- is that we are on the eve of the opening ceremonies for the London Olympic games.  And, my father, Denes, also participated in the Olympic games in London.  The 1948 London Olympics -- for the Hungarian pentathlon team.  (This, on the right, is his official identification card as a "competitor" in the 1948 London Olympics.)  Very few, if any, people ever knew this about my father amongst those with whom I grew up -- because my father never trumpeted himself.  He was far too humble.

My father -- who passed away way too young in 1991 -- was a quiet, brilliant, devoted man.  He and my mother, Eva, left everything behind (including their families) to escape Hungary during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and Russian occupation.  They literally crossed the border -- by foot -- in the middle of the night amidst gunfire.  They did this for all the reasons you hear about in the Hollywood movies -- to create a new, and better, life for their eventual children.  But, this was for real.

I am a direct beneficiary of this, of course.

Denes had an extremely challenging life, apart from the Revolution itself (as if that were not enough).  He was paralyzed for nearly one year for extreme war injuries from a grenade.  He was later taken by Russian/Stalinist occupiers and left for dead for 5 years in a notorious Hungarian concentration camp called "Recsk", where he was tortured and saw friends killed.

Yet, my father never complained about any of this to me -- in fact, he chose not to discuss any of these things.  (And, regrettably, I never asked enough questions growing up ....).

Instead, once he reached the new land (first Canada, then the US -- Minnesota of all places!) -- he focused on constructive/productive things.  He focused on his passions.  He focused on building his family.  He focused on building his business.  He was a brilliant mechanical engineer and designer.  Through pure raw intelligence and drive, my father ultimately built a highly successful industrial business -- called "Deltak" -- that was largely built around the several patents he developed.  Seriously brilliant!  That's what he was!  He didn't do it for the money.  He did it because he loved it.  He worked hard.  Very hard.  But, this was never "work" for him.  It was his passion.

Yet, despite the challenges he faced in building and expanding this business, family ALWAYS came first.  And, FAMILY was his deepest passion.  I remember him always saying, when asked, that his family was his greatest "accomplishment."  This was not talk.  He lived it through his actions.

I have vivid -- very vivid -- and fond -- very fond -- memories of my father NEVER missing dinner with his family.  NEVER missing any of my myriad activities -- from band concerts, to track meets, to basketball games, to whatever else I next cooked up.  He was ALWAYS there.  And, ALWAYS proud.  He placed no overt pressure on me -- he simply instilled in me, and my wonderful siblings (Eva and George), good old-fashioned values of respect, authenticity, dedication, tenacity and hard work.  All by example.

It is not surprising that my sister, Eva, is a chemical engineer and my brother, George, is a pathologist.  Both accomplished professionally.  But, more importantly, both accomplished in all of those other more eternal values.  If nothing else, the Csathy clan is authentic.  In case there were ever any doubt about that, just meet our mother, Eva.  Family first.  Always has been.  Always will be.

My father suffered greatly, once again, at the end of his life.  He suffered a major stroke in 1985.  And, he never recovered.  He was partially paralyzed.  His brain was never the same.  Yet, his spirit and love were.

The biggest tragedy in my life is that my father never met my wonderful wife, Luisa.  He never met our wonderful kids, Hunter (girl, 12 -- going on 15), and Luca (boy, 9).  He died in 1991 -- I met Luisa in 1993.  Two years.  Two ships ....

Denes Csathy.  Great man.  Great life.  He lived it all.  He experienced (and built!) great wonders.  He suffered great pain.

He is incredibly loved ... and he is undoubtedly still with us.  I can tell you a story about that some time ....

The London Olympics.  Especially poignant for me.  Especially reflective.  Especially meaningful.

(PS -- as indicated above, I have never previously written a tribute about my father.  It is amazing how easily this all flowed ... cathartic ... thanks for indulging ...).


charlieboy said...

It's a great tribute you paid your father...I'm glad you shared his story. I was just reading about these "austerity" olympics in a Canadian newspaper...I also rember when the Nuns at my elementary school announced we would be having a new schoolmate from Hungary...and that we were all to welcome her..that was Dorval (Montreal) in 1956...we were soon to learn more about the tradegy that befell that country...because of this I've always felt somewhat connected to Hungary.

Melanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joel said...

What an amazing story, Peter. So glad you shared this. A touching story of a great man that left too soon. But what a legacy he left in his children.