Cover photo for Bela Zoltan Horvath's Obituary
Bela Zoltan Horvath Profile Photo
1936 Bela 2020

Bela Zoltan Horvath

January 29, 1936 — August 11, 2020

Béla Zoltán Horváth
January 29, 1936 – August 11, 2020
Béla Zoltán Horváth loved nothing more than being with his family, and the bigger the gathering the better. He was passionately proud to be Hungarian, dedicated to maintaining bonds of friendships that span decades and continents, and possessed of an uncompromising work ethic. He cooked with gusto, love and generous amounts of paprika, garlic and bacon. He was a life-long scientist and learner, a skilled gardener and woodworker, self-taught musician and player of violin, piano, guitar, harmonica and accordion, and a determined problem solver. He was a loving husband, father, son, grandfather, uncle, father-in-law, brother-in-law, great uncle, brother, cousin, and friend. Known by his family as Béla, Drágám, Dad, Papa, Béla Bacsi and Uncle Béla, he was grounded in and drew strength from his Catholic faith.
Béla was born in Csorna, Hungary in 1936, the youngest of three children of Erzsébet Németh and Béla Zoltán Horváth. He attended Catholic school as a child in Csorna and in nearby Gyor. The stories he could tell about living in Hungary during World War II and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution could fill volumes. In 1957, with the help of priests he knew from Hungary who had gone to America before him, Béla was able to gain passage aboard the General Hahn to escape Communism and the aftermath of the Revolution, arriving first in New Jersey and then travelling by train on to Helena, Montana, where he would begin building a new life and cultivating friendships that would last his lifetime, beginning with the group of fellow students who, like him had come from Hungary to study at Carroll College. He spent his first summer working to earn money before beginning studies as a pre-med student. He earned his PhD at Montana State University in Bozeman and completed post-doctoral work at the Institute for Muscular Dystrophy in New York City. Béla dedicated his professional career to diagnostic research in immunology and microbiology, including research into HIV and HTLV, first at Pfizer in New London, CT, and later at Warner-Lambert, Organon Technika, Bio Merieux, and lastly at Avioq, Inc., which was founded by his dear friend, Cham Chetty. He retired several times, but remained engaged with Avioq as a member of its board of directors.
When Béla came to America, he’d set two goals for himself - to earn a PhD and to marry a Hungarian girl. As fate would have it, his college friend and fellow Hungarian Freedom Fighter, George Krajcsik, had a beautiful sister, Julia, known by her friends and family as Juli. Béla met Juli and her family during the summer of 1962, invited them all to vacation in Montana later that summer (rather than at Niagara Falls), which they did, asked Juli’s father for her hand in marriage, which he granted after convincing endorsements from friends, and married his Hungarian girl in New York City during his winter break that December. When Béla and Juli arrived back in Bozeman, it was snowing and 40 below zero, and so began a life together that over the next 57 years would take them back to New York, and on to New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas, and ultimately to North Carolina, where they would spend 32 years of their 58 years together.
Béla will be remembered for his smile, dedication to family, intellect and many passions, and his love for everything Hungarian. By his own example, he showed the value of hard work, determination and commitment, and the importance of education. When he wasn’t working and in his retirement, he woke early and put everything he had into his vegetable garden, woodworking, pizza oven building, cooking, fixing things, making trips to Lowe’s, and keeping in touch with friends and family. He loved being Papa to his six grandchildren.
Béla and Julia traveled as often as they could to visit their family and friends in Hungary, Romania, Austria, and Italy. As a family, we also took many trips to Montana and Florida, always by car and always in observance of the posted speed limit, with coolers of food, and windows rolled down. Our family gatherings were frequent, though most recently not frequent enough, and lively.
Joining Juli in cherishing precious memories of Béla’s life and legacy are their three children and their families, Adrianne, with her husband Mike and their sons Ben and Zachary; Julie, with her husband Chris, and their children Evelyn and Christopher; and Stephan, known to his family as Pista, with his wife Tracey, and their daughters Katie and Ellie; his sister Baba in Padua, Italy and her children Riccardo, Amadeo, Stephano, and Beatrice, and their families; brother-in-law, George Krajcsik, who was like a brother, with his wife Aileen, and nieces Elizabeth, Vicki and Charlene; and brother-in-law, Peter Krajcsik, who was also like a brother, with his wife Theresa, their children Peter, Kristine and Valerie, and their families. His loss will also be mourned as well by a legion of extended family and friends in the U.S. and abroad.
Béla was greeted in Heaven by his parents, sister Márika and her husband, his favorite uncle Rudi, his brother-in-law Akos, and several dear friends and members of his extended family.
The family would like to express our gratitude to Felita, who so kindly, tenderly and faithfully helped us care for Béla, his and Julia’s kind and supportive parish family at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Bahama and friends and neighbors in Black Horse Run, the doctors and nurses and the hospice team at Duke, and especially Dr. Ian Lee, who was the first to truly listen to Dad and commit himself to understanding what was causing Béla’s strength to wane. And most deeply, God, who in His infinite wisdom led a Hungarian deacon and his wife to St. Matthew Church in Bahama, NC just when Béla and Julia would need him most. Dezsö, your friendship, visits, and prayers have been everything.
A final note - Béla made friends easily and he treasured each one. So to all of you here in North Carolina, in Texas, New Jersey, Indiana, Montana, Michigan, Florida, California, Canada, and places in between, and to those in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, on behalf of Béla, thank you so very much for your friendship. He’ll be waiting to welcome us all to the Magyar section of Heaven with a shot of őszibarack pálinka, szalona and pogácsa.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Durham on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, at 2:00 p.m. Because of the coronavirus, the family is being asked to be mindful of keeping the gathering on the small side so as to not risk conveying the virus, and those attending are asked to arrive at the church no earlier than 1:50, wear a mask, and observe social distancing. Internment will follow immediately after the Mass in the Church’s cemetery. Following services at the church, all are invited to stop by Béla and Julia’s home to toast and remember a life richly and fully lived and to share in some homemade gulyás. Weather-permitting, we’ll be outside.
Hall-Wynne Funeral Home of Durham is assisting the family. Online condolences and remembrances may be offered by visiting At Béla’s request, there will be no viewing or visitation prior to the Mass. Béla would be honored if in lieu of flowers you might consider making a donation in his name to St. Michael’s Abbey, which was founded by Father Francis Purker, mentor, friend and guardian angel to Béla for many years.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

2:00 - 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

St. Matthew Catholic Church

1001 Mason Road, Durham, NC 27712

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St. Matthew Catholic Cemetery

4826 Trenton Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27517

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