Physician, father, grandfather, humorist, music lover, world traveller. Born Dec. 3, 1922, in Szatumare, Romania; died Sept. 1, 2013, in Montreal of cancer, aged 90.
Gabor Komaromi was both lucky and unlucky in his 90 years. He came of age at a time when the world turned upside down. As a Jew during the Second World War he had to leave his small town in 1943 as he was sent to several forced labour camps. Many close family members never survived the war, including his parents, Ilona and Marton Schon, who died in Auschwitz.
After the war, Gabor made his way to Budapest. He had always known he would be a doctor, and he managed to squeeze into the limited quota of Jews allowed to study medicine. He began work as an internist at a hospital in Budapest in 1950. He married Lidia Farkas in 1948 and they had two children, Andrew and Anna.
When the revolution of 1956 broke out, Gabor and Lidia fled Budapest with their two young children. With bullets whizzing by, they escaped on foot to Vienna. Luckily, Gabor had relatives in Montreal who helped them get established in Canada.
Gabor had to start all over. He studied day and night to pass his medical exams in an unfamiliar language. At the same time, he provided medical services in his cramped home for other Hungarian refugees who had no access to health care.
He thrived in his new homeland. He treated thousands of patients in his 50 years as a family physician and later an internist with a subspecialty in endocrinology. Renowned as a brilliant diagnostician, he always made time to address the non-physical needs of his patients, lending an empathetic ear and imparting advice and wisdom. His patients adored him, and he continued working until the age of 85, retiring in 2007.
Music was like oxygen to him. As a boy in Szatumare, Gabor would hide under the piano and absorb the music played by his favourite aunt. As a penniless orphan in Budapest after the war, he would sneak into the opera house. Once settled in Montreal, he built a classical music and opera collection of epic proportions. His greatest pleasure was sharing that collection and his musical knowledge with friends and family.
His first marriage ended in 1968. He remarried twice, finding great contentment at last with his Mari, with whom he spent 30 years. Together they attended concerts, theatre and films, entertained and travelled all over Europe, Asia and Australia. When he took ill just one month before his death, they were travelling in Romania.
Gabor’s three grandsons delighted him to no end. He kept up with their achievements, their friends and their plans. Last January, at 90, he braved harsh weather to travel to Toronto to attend a play by his daughter’s theatre group, watching the performance with pride.
Gabor could reduce his family to tears of laughter with his sometimes off-colour jokes delivered with perfect timing. His sense of humour was one of the qualities that sustained him throughout his life. He had been unlucky to have lost so many family members under the most brutal of circumstances, and he never got over those losses. But he was lucky to have had the resilience to carry on and build a life that was rich beyond measure.
Anna Grosman Gottlieb is Gabor Komaromi’s daughter.
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