1980 Reunion at John and Betty Basco's

Novak-Varady Reunion, 1980


Please send any additions, corrections, comments to: Jimmy Myers at


'Odüsszea' or, Sex, Lies, and Cabbage: The Story of the families of Amelia (Karaszi) Varady, Susanna (Harsanyi) Varady, Mary (Gyula) Novak Varady, Andrew Varady, and Joseph Novak==

NOTE ON NAMES: In the interest of trying to avoid confusion, the names of those who lived and died in Hungary will be presented with the Hungarian spellings and in the Hungarian manner, which is surname first, Christian name last. There are a few instances, as well, of multiple people with identical names, and I will distinguish between them as follows: for Andrew Varady (1877-1939), I will follow any mention of him by name with “(1)”, and will follow Andrew Varady (1910-1971) with a “(2)”. Likewise, Mary (Gyula) Novak Varady (1894-1972) will be signified by a “(1)” and Mary (Novak) (Mrs. William) Varady (1914-2003) will be signified by a “(2)”. I will differentiate between Joseph Novak (1881-1970) and Joseph “Gus” Novak (1915-1976) by referring to the latter by his nickname.

NOTE ON IMMIGRATION RECORDS: Due to such factors as illegibility of handwriting in the original records and lack of accuracy on the part of the people recording the information, 100% certainty about some of the documentation cited herein is not guaranteed. No records before the mid-1890s have even been considered because they usually only had an immigrant’s name and no other identifying information. Following that, the forms listed the village of the immigrant’s birth, their age (not always correct), and the address (or, at least, town) where the immigrant was going as well as the name of someone living there. In the cases where the name of the person at the destination matches someone who can be verified, that record has been considered accurate. In other cases, after hours of searching through available immigration records, it is assumed that the documentation cited is probably accurate and will be noted as such.


"The great Hungarian poet Mihály Babits wrote that it is not cynical bitterness that is characteristic of Hungarians but shoulder-shrugging, somewhat melancholy resignation. It is no coincidence that a Hungarian adage says, "Sirva vigad a magyar" (Magyars take their pleasures mournfully)." -- Paul Lendvai, The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat


This work, and the research that has gone into it, is dedicated to the memory of those left behind. For every immigrant with his or her story of hardship in a strange, new world, there were countless others who either chose not to make the journey, could not afford to leave, or, having made their "fortune", returned to Hungary and ended up losing it all. As we look back at the struggles of our ancestors building new lives in America, let us not forget their families, who had to struggle through both world wars; through the tearing apart of Hungary following World War I, some of them suddenly and painfully becoming citizens of a different country; and through decades of fear and oppression and real privation under the yoke of Soviet domination.


In the northeast corner of Hungary, not far from the cities of Nyíregyháza and Miskolc, in the old county of Szabolcs (now part of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg) Andrew Varady was born in the village of Dombrád on October 5, 1875, to Váradi András and his wife, born Geri Erszebet. Dombrád is not much bigger now than it was then, which was about the size of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It should be noted that Varady's tombstone would record his birth as November 30, 1877. For Hungarians, a person's name day (usually the day associated with the saint who shared their name) is as important a day as their birthday. St. Andrew's Day is November 30, so it may have been that he celebrated that day instead of his birthday. On different documents throughout his life, his given age might not be accurate (second marriage records, World War I draft card, census records).

Marriage, Váradi és Geri 1865

Marriage registry for Váradi András and Geri Erszebet

His parents were born and raised in Dombrád, and there are records in the Reformed Church registry going back to his great-grandfather, Váradi József, born in Dombrád around 1766 and who died on April 5, 1823. András and Erzsebet were married on March 8, 1866. Including Andrew, they had six children, only three of whom (Andrew, János, and the second daughter named Eszter) would survive to adulthood. Not much is known of János but that he became a teacher or professor. Váradi Erzsebet died on July 16, 1895, of a cerebral concussion. Váradi András would remarry to Moritz Eszter but fathered no more children. He died on December 8, 1907 at the age of 64.

Marriage, Váradi István és Iánvári Erzsébet 1830

Marriage registry for Váradi István and Iánvári Erzsébet, February 18,1830

Dombrad 1910

Dombrád in 1910

The above is a web page with a map of Szabolcs county from 1910. Dombrád is along the upper border.

Dombrad today

Dombrád today

His obituary in 1939 said that Andrew Varady (1) was survived by two brothers in Hungary, Sándor and Ferenc, but no record could be found to support that.

Not much is known that is certain about the history of the Váradi family before the late 18th century. Then, as today, there were a few unrelated (probably very distantly related) Váradi families in Dombrád.

According to Philip Varady, from his website “Váradi-Varady Magyars in Maryland”*: “The name Váradi comes from the Hungarian word 'Var' which means fortress. In its basic meaning it is 'one who is from the fort'. The earliest known record of anyone bearing this name is from 27 July 1480 when two brothers named Pal (Paul) and Matyas (Matthew) were raised to the nobility and given their family name and coat of arms. To receive such an honor they must have been either in the military or administrators. In 1480 Hungary was at the height of its power during the reign of Matyas Corvinus. It was during this time that they had the Turks in check while still making inroads into Poland, Austria, Bohemia, Serbia and Romania”

In Hungarian, "váradi" means "of Várad", the name of a town and a region in Hungary. (

According to someone who visited Dombrád in 1989:

"When I was in Dombrad, I stayed with Varady's there. The common link that tied us together was the box of old shoes your grandfather (Bill Varady) sent to Dombrad when he had the shoe shop. I was so young I can't remember exactly, but I would guess the year was between 1957 and 1961. I sat in the kitchen with the folks that received that box of shoes.

They had two daughters as I recall, one married to a doctor in the village. I went to the reformed church in Dombrad and sat and read through the baptism books tracking the Varady's...some spelled Varadi...back to the 1400's. I have since lost my notes, but that is where you can find the records. Another interesting note that Szabolcs Megye has a county record book and at some time in the 1400's the Varady family made the county record book as being property owners. Must have been like royalty to own property during that period."

Hungary in the late 19th century was a land undergoing tremendous change. Magyars (ethnic Hungarians) were only one of many ethnic groups who called Hungary home, among them Slovaks, Germans, Poles, Ruthenes, and Croats to name a few. A movement known as “Magyarization” had as one of its goals making Hungarian the dominant language in Hungary. Oddly, up until the early 19th century, partly due to the many different ethnic groups in Hungary, the “official” diplomatic language was Latin. Many of the most wealthy Hungarian landowners and nobility, likewise, did not speak the language; they were ethnic Germans or Czechs or Slovaks, and they looked down on the Hungarian language and its users. In the second half of the 1800s, Magyarization had the effect of trying to force Hungarian on the various ethnic groups, which, though it worked, had lingering results which would affect a great many ethnic Hungarians following World War I.

There was also a very complex, medieval system of nobility unique to Hungary, which had served to keep Hungarian society more agrarian and far behind the other, increasingly-industrialized countries of Europe.

Andrew Varady

Andrew Varady(1) circa 1897

For a period of time, our Andrew was actually secretary for the local chapter of the Socialist party. The Socialists were a party committed to making things better for all Hungarians and for promoting self-rule. According to his son Bill, Andrew Varady defied his family by coming over here:

“You see, they come from an educated family; in the old country, they were pretty well-off. So, his family sort-of disowned him for coming to the United States. You see, because there, we had everything, but his urge was to come here. His one brother, he was a school professor, and then the father, his father, owned quite a piece of land in the old country, which in them days was worth something. If you owned a parcel of land, you were a landlord.”



On December 7, 1899, out of Antwerp, the S.S. Switzerland sailed for America, docking on December 22 in Philadelphia. One of the passengers who registered was an “András Váradi” of Dombrád, whose destination was a brother-in-law, Albert Szanto, in Phoenixville. He had $3.50 in his pocket, and this may not have been his first time in the states.

Immigration Andrew Varady 1899

Immigration form, Andrew Varady, 1899

There were several hundred Hungarians already living in Phoenixville, most of them working at the Phoenix Iron Works.



They worked there for almost nothing and faced intense bigotry. Below are some excerpts from a local newspaper of the day, and as you can read, Hungarians were regarded with contempt and disdain. In the eyes of many at that time, Hungarians were the worst possible element people could have living in their community.

June 30, 1887 Source: Daily Local News

“Five Hungarians are found lying dead in Puddlers’ Row, three man, a woman, and a child, from some disease of an epidemic form. If it be true, the wonder will not be great, for certainly that is a very filthy spot, and the Hungarians are very filthy people.”

July 1, 1887 Source: Daily Local News

“The report of the death of five Hungarians in Puddlers’ Row, although widely circulated and believed, was incorrect. There is something wrong down there though, scurvy(sic) I am told, and people are giving that second a wide berth. An employee of the Phoenixville Iron Works, whose business frequently takes him to the “Row,” told me yesterday that he saw in the army and elsewhere a good deal of filth but the Huns here beat everything in that direction. ‘Dirt and beer,’ he said, ‘they live upon. Why, after a wedding down there, I saw two wagon loads of empty beer kegs hauled away.’”

March 20, 1890 Source: Daily Local News A fire occurred on Wednesday morning at #31 Puddlers’ Row, owned by Phoenixville Iron Works. The house was occupied by Hungarians, who carelessly dumped hot ashes in the cellar. Loss is not known, but houses in the “Row” are not costly buildings.”

April 24, 1890 Source: Daily Local News There was a work stoppage at the Puddling department of Phoenixveille Iron Works Tuesday, owing to the refusal of puddlers to make 100 more pounds of iron for a heat without extra pay. The company withdrew its order and work will recommence.”

July 7, 1890: Source: Daily Local News Charles Matts, a boarding boss at #2 Puddlers’ Row, Phoenixveille, was standing at the rear of his house the other night when an Italian or Hungarian threw a stone at him inflicting a long gaping wound in the forehead and fracturing the skull. He was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. His assailant escaped.”

August 20, 1890Source: Daily Local News Michael Szaky, age 21, died at Pennsylvania Hospital at 4:30 p.m. yesterday afternoon of burns sustained in an accident at Phoenixville Iron Works. Szaky was a night-workman at the iron smelting works. At 6:30 a.m. he was wheeling a truck with a large bar of red-hot iron on it when he stumbled and fell on the iron. The whole front part of his body was literally scorched before his comrades could rescue him. He was wrapped in cotton batting and sent on the first train to Pennsylvania Hospital, arriving at 8:00 a.m.”

September 23, 1890 Source: Daily Local News “I think it would pay the Phoenixville Iron Works to give good laborers $1.50 per day instead of $1.00 to poor laborers who must of necessity have a boss over every 3 or four of them…”

“The Hungarians have ruined nearly every branch of business in Phoenixville.” -John O.K. Robarts

December 3, 1890 Source: “Huns Fleeing Home and Westward” in Daily Local News “Almost every outgoing train is carrying away some of the recently discharged Hungarians. Some are going back to their own country to live out the winter while others are hieing westward.”

December 5, 1891 Source: Daily Local News “When running full Phoenixville Iron Works employs upwards of 3,000 men. The company owned nearly all of the town of 13,000 people, who depend on the company for support.”

December 14, 1892 Source: Daily Local News “A 10% decrease was declared by Phoenixville Iron Works in all mills and shops of the plant except the Puddling Mill, where wages will decrease from $3.25 to $3.00 per ton. Common laborers will hereafter receive $.95 cents instead of $1.02 per day. Reason given is ‘depression in the business’”.

January 2, 1893 Source: Daily Local News “The Phoenixville Iron Works has restarted operations after the holidays. Of 700 or more Hungarians employed at Phoenixville Iron Works, about 3/4 have left their jobs. The Hungarians are first class laborers in every respect and work quite hard.”

January 4, 1893 Source: Daily Local News “The Hungarians employed in Phoenixville Iron Works are leaving the borough daily, but others are arriving to take the places of the dissatisfied ones. There are many—very many—who are not willing to work for $.93 cents per day (as a result of a 10% pay reduction that went into effect on December 15, 1892, and yet there are scores of others ready to take their place.”

January 13, 1893 Source: Daily Local News “The Phoenixville Iron Works has decided to charge all tenants keeping more than 4 boarders $2.00 per month extra to help pay for extra wear and tear of their houses. This will almost entirely apply to the Hungarian element.”

January 27, 1893 Source: Daily Local News “The Phoenixville Iron Works of Phoenixville has decided to employ no more Hungarian labor. Places are being filled by colored men from the South. The Hungarians have been receiving $.95 cents a day and struck for an advance.”

January 28, 1893 Source: Daily Local News “A carload of colored men from the South arrived in Phoenixville Iron Works yesterday to take the place of striking Hungarians. The latter were working for $.95 cents a day.”

February 15, 1893 Source: Daily Local News “Thirty colored laborers from Harrisburg, who came here 3 weeks ago to take the places of dissatisfied Huns at Phoenixville Iron Works, quit work yesterday over a misunderstanding as to wages.”

“‘We would much rather have the colored men than the Hungarians as citizens,’ remarked a resident of Phoenixville. ‘The Hungarians are of no benefit to anyone other than themselves. They only patronize the two stores owned by fellow Hungarians, not spending one cent on our native merchants excepting the liquor dealers.’”

My favorite article about the Hungarians comes from the Pennsburg Town and Country, Saturday, April 27, 1901:

“FIRE DESTROYS HUNGARIAN HOME” “One of the frame buildings which was recently erected along the Branch Creek, near Salfordsville, for the accommodation of the employees on the new concrete bridge, was on Tuesday night destroyed by fire. The farmers living near the vicinity of the new bridge were thrown into a state of excitement by an alarm of fire. They noticed in the direction of Branch Creek long tongs of flames reaching toward the skies. Upon investigation they learned that one of the frame buildings occupied by six Hungarians had taken fire. They soon saw that it was useless to attempt to extinguish the flames as the building was one mass of fire. The building was burned to the ground, and it was supposed that it was ignited through the carelessness of the Hungarian workmen, who slept in the building and narrowly escaped with their lives. This class of people are inveterate smokers and it is supposed that the building was ignited through their thoughtlessness in throwing matches about the building. The farmers when they arrived upon the scene witnessed an amusing sight, as the Huns were barefooted and in one or two instances barely clad. Their shirts, coats and shoes being consumed by the fire. They in their excited condition presented a picture long to be remembered by the farmers who were present. The kind hearted tillers of the soil gave the Hungarians clothing and shoes which they through a series of gestures expressed their thanks.”


In the 1900 census, Andrew Varady, age 23, was listed as being a boarder at a house in the 300 block of Cinder Street in Phoenixville, working as a day laborer. There were at least eight or nine other boarders living where he did, which was a common thing up and down that street.

Census Andrew Varady 1900

Census form, Andrew Varady, 1900

Varadi Amalia 1902 Immigration

Andrew Varady (1) during these first few years worked very hard in sponsoring people coming over here, according to his son Bill. On one trip back to Hungary, he married.

Marriage, Váradi-Karászi 1902 page 1

Marriage registry, Varady and Karászi, page 1

The story, as told by his granddaughter, Betty (Remenar) Hegyi, was that Varady was originally supposed to marry Susanna Harsyányi of Dombrád. Instead, on January 14, 1902, he married Karaszi Amália, a girl from a neighboring village, which would end up causing very hard feelings between Susanna and Varady’s oldest daughter. Amália arrived, already about six months’ pregnant, at Ellis Island on October 8, 1902, aboard the S.S. Columbia, traveling from Dombrád with Eszter and Etel Vajda and Jozef and Eszter Nagy. Interestingly, a month earlier, on the S.S. Fürst Bismarck, a Zusa Harsányi (Susanna) was registered at Ellis Island - on September 4, 1902, sponsored by her cousin, Julius Harsanyi (who is buried next to her in Phoenixville).

Marriage, Váradi-Karászi 1902 page 2

Marriage registry, Varady and Karászi, page 2

Harsanyi Zuza 1902 Immigration

Immigration form, Susanna Harsanyi, 1902

On December 27, 1902, Amelia Varady was born to Andrew Varady (1) and his wife. Soon after her birth, mother and daughter, and possibly Andrew, returned to Hungary. One can imagine that the Hungarian community in Phoenixville was close-knit, and having her husband's original betrothed living there may have been too much for Amália. Or she may simply have been homesick.

Another child, Sándor, was born on March 18, 1904, and Váradi Amália died a month later on April 21 at the age of 24.

Birth, Váradi Sándor 1904

Birth registry, Váradi Sándor

Andrew Varady (1) is again found in the immigrant register on December 5, 1904, having sailed on the S.S. Ultonia from the port of Fiume (present-day Rijeka) in Croatia on November 10. He had $6.00 in his pocket and was headed back to Phoenixville.

With their father in America, young Amelia and Sándor were shuttled back and forth between their mother's family, the Karaszis, and the family of their father's future wife, the Harsányis, in Dombrád.

Amelia (Karaszi) Varadi and Amelia Varadi

Amalia (Karaszi) Varady and Amelia Varady

Death, Váradi Amália 1904

Death registry, Váradi Amália


Andrew Varady (1) and Susanna Harsanyi were married in Phoenixville on October 14, 1905.

Marriage, Varadi-Harsanyi, p 1

Marriage record, Andrew and Susanna Varady

Marriage, Varadi-Harsanyi, p 2

Second part of Varady-Harsanyi marriage record

Susanna was born the daughter of Harsanyi Imre and his wife Fekete Eleonóra on April 3, 1876. Interestingly, her age would also be misrepresented on her death certificate and tombstone, which both listed her as being two years younger than she actually was. Mary (Harsanyi) Kocsi, who grew up in Dombrád, remembers Hársanyi Imre as a rather short man, full of energy, well-known in Dombrád. She remembers that Harsányi, who died around 1915, was a village favorite for his humorous stories and generosity. While he himself did not have much money, he was descended from very wealthy Dombrádians and was a cousin to one of the wealthiest people in Dombrád at that time.

Baptism, Mary Kocsi, p 1

Baptism record of Mary (Harsanyi) Kocsi

Baptism, Mary Kocsi, p 2

Second part of Mary Kocsi's baptism record; her godmother was Susanna Varady

Mary Kocsi's daughter, Mary Ann Serio shares, "My mother did not talk about her parents very much. Julius Harsanyi (buried next to Susanna Varady in Phoenixville) may be an uncle of my mother's because I know that she was to stay with her uncle in a boarding house in Phoenixville when she came over in 1926 or 1927. I believe Harsanyi Gerzsony was my grandfather. My mother was born in Stowe in 1906. My grandmother and grandfather were married in Hungary and came over to America, as many did, to get money to return to Hungary to buy land. They ran a boarding house about a block from where your grandparents lived (which was 416 West Race Street in Stowe). After my mother was born, her mother took her back to Hungary and bought a farm.

"My mother told me that they were not required to pay a road tax. Because Hungary still had a class system, royalty did not pay a road tax. This would mean that Harsanyi families fit into the upper classes. She also mentioned that the Harsanyi family owned a factory in the area.

"I did visit Hungary in the nineteen eighty ?. At that time, my mother's sister was still alive. She had two brothers that had died, Miklos and Joszef. Miklos had one daughter, Kati, who has since passed away. Joszef had five sons." In researching this history, nothing could be found that documents this history of the name Harsányi; however, there is a village not far from Dombrád by the name of Harsány, so it is very possible that the name originally denoted someone from that place.

Andrew and Susanna’s first child, William was delivered on August 24, 1906, in Phoenixville by a "Dr. Weeks". It was thought at the time of his birth, which was premature, that he might not live, so he was baptized the day after his birth. Interestingly, the baptismal record from the Hungarian Reformed congregation in Phoenixville, lists William's birth as August 25. It is unknown if this was a clerical error or if this really was his birthdate. As was common, his birth was not legally registered at that time. He always celebrated August 24 as his birthday, though.

Baptism, Bill Varady, p 1

Baptism record, Bill Varady

Baptism, Bill Varady, p 2

Second part of baptism record of Bill Varady

A second child, Margaret was born on September 26, 1907. She died of unknown causes on March 23, 1909.

Baptism, Margaret Varady, p 1

Baptism record of Margaret Varady

Baptism, Margaret Varady, p 2

Second part of Margaret Varady's baptism record

Grave, Margaret (Margit) Varadi 1909

Grave of Margaret (Margit) Varadi, 1909, Phoenixville, PA

Soon after Margaret’s death, it was decided that young Amelia would be brought to live with her father, to help out with the house and the children. Presumably because he would have been of no use to the family, Sándor was left behind in Dombrád, where he died in the mid 1910s of influenza.

Death record, Margaret Varady

Death record, Margaret Varady

Charles and Rebecca Fodor

Charles and Rebecca Fodor

On February 15, 1910, through the port of Ellis Island came 17-year-old Charles Fodor and 6-year-old Amelia Varady (she was actually 7). They had traveled on the S.S. Caronia from Fiume. Their departure from Dombrád was done with much stealth, as Fodor, according to Amelia, “kidnapped” her from her Karaszi grandmother to bring her to this country. Amelia was listed as being in the charge of an uncle, Toth István, 33, of Dombrád. Six days after Fodor and Amelia were logged in Ellis Island, on February 21, 1910, Susanna gave birth to Andrew Varady (2).

Baptism, Andy Varady

Baptism record of Andrew Varady (2)

Immigration Amelia Varady 1910 page 1

Page 1 of immigration form for Amelia Varady, 1910

Immigration Amelia Varady 1910 page 2

Amelia Varady immigration form, page 2

Amelia always said she was brought over to be a maid and a babysitter. According to Bill, “Well, she calls it babysitting, but that wasn’t…we didn’t have babysitters. They’d sit us on a chair, and you’d sit there, and if you pissed yourself, you pissed yourself. They didn’t have time to look after the kids. You’d cry for a long time. It was rough.”

The census that year, conducted in East Pikeland Township on April 18, 1910, listed Andrew and Susanna Varady, Molly, William, Andrew, Charlie Fodor, and Susanna's cousin, Vasarhelyi Menyhert.

Census Andrew Varady 1910

Census, Varady family, 1910

Elizabeth Varady was born on June 3, 1912, and Joseph arrived on October 18, 1914.

Tragedy struck the household on April 13, 1915, when Elizabeth, a sickly child from birth, died of what is listed on her death certificate as bronchopneumonia. Amelia would tell the story later in life that while caring for Elizabeth, an accident occurred which involved the upsetting of the infant’s coach, which Molly always said caused her death.

Obit - Elizabeth Varady Phoenixville Daily Republican, Tuesday, 4-13-15, page 1

Obituary, Elizabeth Varady (listed as "Lizzie Varde")

In any event, Molly was to shoulder the blame for her sister’s death, and it worsened the already tenuous relationship she had with her stepmother, whom she despised and whom she says despised her.

Death certificate, Elizabeth Varady

Death certificate, Elizabeth Varady

Bill remembered a farm they tried to scratch a living out on, which was on Halteman Road in East Vincent Township, off of old 724, which runs from Pottstown to Phoenixville. He remembered riding on the horse-drawn cart with his mother to take the produce and dairy products to Pottstown to sell.

Farm on Halteman Road

Farm in East Vincent Township

Sometime shortly after the birth of John, on August 29, 1917, according to Bill Varady’s recollection, the family lost the farm to sheriff’s sale. A search of the land records for Chester County fails to turn up any evidence the Varadys owned this property, much less lost it by sheriff’s sale. It is possible that they rented the farm and were evicted. Bill further recalled that it was around this time some, or all, of the family moved to Hammond, Indiana, for a while. How long they were there, or exactly when they went, is not known. While they were there, though, they took in a boarder, Andrew Remenar, a young Hungarian in his early 30s. Lying about her age, Molly and Remenar eloped in 1919 and married. In the 1920 census, they are found (with her age listed as 20) living as boarders in Harrison Township, near Terre Haute, Indiana. She gave birth to a daughter, Ethel, on April 8, 1920. Ethel would die on September 26, 1920, of malnutrition.

Draft Card Andrew Varady

Draft Registration Card, Andrew Varady

It is not known when the rest of the family returned to Pennsylvania, or why, but they were back by September 1918, when Andrew Varady was working at Flagg’s, in Stowe, as shown on his draft registration card. The census of 1920 has them living at 176 Howard Street. Varady's first-born son, Sándor, who never was brought to the United States, had died on December 5, 1918, in the influenza epidemic. He was, apparently, cared for by the family of his step-mother, Susanna, all those years, and it is unknown why, except for poverty, he was never reunited with this father.

Census Andrew Varady 1920

Census, Varady family, 1920

Andrew and Susanna’s final child, Helen, was born on July 14, 1921. A year later, in November of 1922, Susanna was diagnosed with cancer of the left breast, which had spread to her stomach and bowels. She died at 1 p.m. on December 21, 1922, her 44th birthday.

Death cert Susanna Varady

Death Certificate, Susanna Varady

Obit - Susanna Varady

Obituary, Susanna Varady


The photograph below is not of the funeral of Susanna Varady. The deceased is Sofia Varadi, wife of Balazs Varadi (not a close relation), who lived in Phoenixville at the time our family lived there. I include it here for a few reasons. The first is that I think it is an incredibly interesting picture. The second is that it is an example of a Hungarian funeral within a year of Susanna Varady's death. The two men on the far left are the above-mentioned Charles Fodor and Vasarhelyi Menyhert.

Phoenixville funeral

Funeral in Phoenixville, 1921


Joseph Novak

Joseph Novak (1881-1970)

Joseph Novak was born on December 1, 1881, to Novák István (1837-??) and Erzsebet (Bukovits) (1839-??) in the town of Somodi in the county of Abauj, Hungary. Joseph had two brothers that I know of: Stephen (1877-1929), who is buried in St. Al’s Old Cemetery in Pottstown, next to his wife (Julia, 1870-1936), and John, as well as a sister, Elizabeth. Little is known about his family history beyond his parents. Just a little research shows that Novak, besides being a very common name, is not of Hungarian origin.* As mentioned earlier, there were many Slovaks who were citizens of Hungary, and the Novaks were probably among them. (

No record can be located that lists when Joseph Novak first arrived in this country. He was here by 1903, however, as a record from Ellis Island exists for the entrance of István Hajdu (to become Americanized to “Stephen Hydu”), of Somodi, and his sponsor is listed as being his brother-in-law, “Josef Novak”, in Pottstown, PA. Joseph most likely had been sponsored by his older brother, Stephen, who, according to the 1910 census, came to America in 1894. According to the 1920 census, Joseph listed 1908 as his most recent year of arrival.

Stephen and Julia Novak

Stephen and Julia Novak

Joe Novak

John Hydu, Joseph Novak, circa 1930

Hajdu Istvan 1903 Immigration

Immigration form for Stephen Hydu, 1903


Reliable history on the origin of our Gyula family is nonexistent before the 1820s. There is a town by the name of Gyula in southern Hungary, and "gyula" was also an ancient title of nobility.

In Somodi, on September 8, 1894, Mary Gyula was born to Gyula Vince and (and) Amália (Tóth).

Baptism registry, Gyula Maria

Baptism registry for Mary Gyula, born September 8 and baptized September 10, 1894

Gyula Vincze was the son of Gyula János and his wife, born Galata Mária, and he was born July 19, 1851. Gyula János was born November 12, 1824, the son of Gyula János and his wife, born Molnár Klára. Gyula Tóth Amália was born on July 10, 1857, to Tóth János and Harmati Erzsébet. Gyula János and Amália were married November 26, 1878, presumably at St. Martin's Roman Catholic Church in Somodi. A son, Joseph, was born September 10, 1883, followed by another son, Vinzce, born September 25, 1885. According to records in Hungary, their next son, István, was born in 1894. As of this time, it is not known if Mary and István were twins, if István was born in January of that year, or if there is an error somewhere with one of their birth dates. Two more children were born to the family: Menyhért in 1896 and Margit in 1898. Very little is known about the family life of Gyula Vincze and Amália. At least three of their children (Vincze, Mary, and Margit) are remembered by their descendants as all being unwilling to talk about their parents or their childhood.

Marriage registry, Gyula-Toth

Marriage registry for the wedding of Gyula Vincze and Toth Amalia

The first of their children to leave Somodi for the US was Joseph, who, according to his petition for naturalization, arrived at the port of New York on June 8, 1906, on the ship the Kaiser Wilhelm II. He was married on November 23, 1907, to Anna Szeles in the Church of St. Stephen of Hungary in Manhattan. By 1910, he and Anna were living at 26 Yale Street in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Drienovec (Somodi)

Drienovec, Slovakia

Church in Drienovec (Somodi)

Catholic church in Drienovec

On May 25, 1911, Mary arrived at Ellis Island aboard the S.S. Pannonia, which had left the port of Fiume on May 6. She was listed as being 5 feet even, with a fresh complexion, fair hair, and blue eyes, and she had $25 in her pocket, which was a fortune. Passage had been paid for by her father, and she was sponsored by her brother, Joseph. Sometime after her arrival, Mary secured employment as a maid or a cook in New York City for a Jewish couple. A few people have told me that it was here she developed a strong distaste for hot dogs, which was about all the help was given to eat.

Immigration Mary Gyula 1911

Page 1 of Mary Gyula's immigration form

Immigration Mary Gyula 1911 p.2

Page 2, Mary Gyula

Gyula Menyhert

Gyula Menyhert 1896-??

Gyula Vincze

Gyula Vincze (son) 1885-??


Gyula Istvan, killed in World War I


According to Stephen Hydu’s daughter, Rose, her father was living in New York City around this time, and it is supposed that Novak had made his way there, too. In any event, sometime in 1912 or 1913, Joseph Novak and Mary Gyula were wed. The Hydu family (by this time, Hydu’s wife Elizabeth, and daughter, also Elizabeth, had arrived in America) and the Novaks moved to Hazleton, PA, sometime in 1913, where, on January 24, 1914, Mary gave birth to their first child, a daughter, named for her mother. Joe and his brother-in-law, like many Eastern European immigrants worked as coal miners at this time. A son, Joseph (Uncle Gus) was born on October 9, 1915.

Betty Hydu (on left), Mary (Gyula) Novak, Mary Novak, mid-1914

Standing, Elizabeth Hydu; seated: Mary (Gyula) Novak and Mary Novak. Taken 1914.

Draft Card Joseph Novak

Draft Card, Joseph Novak

Following the death of one of Stephen Hydu’s cousins in a coal mining accident, the Novak and Hydu families moved to Stowe in 1916. That is where Stephen Novak was born, on October 19, 1917. Joe’s draft registration card from 1918 lists him as working for the L.F. Shoemaker Co. They lived in rent, moving from placed to place in Stowe, but in the January 1920 census, the family is listed as living at 123 Center Avenue in Stowe. It was a few days after the census was taken, on January 10, 1920, that Charles was born, the last of Joe and Mary’s children.

As was the custom at the time (and the necessity), the family took in boarders. It was with one of these boarders, according to Bill Varady, that Mary became pregnant in late 1921. It was at this point that the Novaks separated. According to several sources, the couple did not divorce. Mary, however, was excommunicated from the Catholic church over the affair, which produced a son, John, on July 1, 1922. The effects of this were many, the greatest of which were the end of the Novaks’ marriage and Mary’s expulsion from the church. A devoutly religious woman, she, according to many, kept faithful to the practice of eating fish on Friday until her death. Her granddaughter, Arlene, remembers that she would watch Mary, and it would look to her that she was saying the rosary to herself. A result of this experience was that Mary developed at time a fierce resentment toward the Catholic church, and she would do what she could to try and prevent any of her children or stepchildren from marrying, or even befriending, Catholics.

Of course, the Catholics she knew may have helped foster that ill will. While Mary(1) and her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Hydu, had been close, in the wake of the breakup of the Novaks' marriage, there developed a schism between the two women. Twenty years of a deep chill in that relationship would only thaw when the two women were unable to prevent their daughters (Betty and Margie Varady and Rose Hydu) from becoming close friends in school, at which time the two women reconciled.

Census Joseph Novak 1920

Census form, Joseph Novak family, 1920


When or how the Novaks and the Varadys formed their Hungarian Brady Bunch is not certain. What is known is that within a few months following Susanna Varady’s death, Mary Novak was pregnant with Andrew Varady’s (1) child. The family settled at what today is 511 Ash Street in Stowe. According to Bill Varady, at one point, the Varadys had owned that house and then lost it. “We had it first, too; and then, after my mother died, (the Novaks) got in with the family, they got tied up, and then they bought it again.”

Bill Varady 7-11-24

Article, Bill Varady's crash

It was also around this time that Bill would have the accident that cost him his leg. He was riding his motorcycle on Squirrel Hollow Road, which is just northwest of Stowe, off of present-day High Street, when he was struck by a vehicle at the railroad tracks. A settlement was reached in the accident, and with the money Bill received (which was given promptly to Mary (1) and Andrew(2)), the family purchased the lots on each side of their home in Stowe from Jonathan and Ethel Selinger in a sale finalized on March 15, 1927.

The Old Homeplace - mid 1940s

511 Ash Street, Stowe, PA

As mentioned above, it is not known for sure whether Joseph and Mary Novak(1) divorced. It is most likely they did not. She and Andrew Varady(1) were supposed to have had a small religious ceremony at their home that solemnized their union, and as was the law at that time, after 7 years of cohabitation, they were common-law husband and wife. She would adopt the name Varady.

It was there, on February 23, 1924, that Elizabeth Viola Varady was born, and on April 21, 1925, that Margaret Ethel Varady was born. Francis would follow on November 8, 1926. Alex was born on February 25, 1932, 29 years and two months after the birth of Varady's first child, Amelia.


Tragedy again struck the family in July of 1925. Charlie Novack remembers clearly (he was 5) that he and his brother John (and, according to Bill Varady, there may have been others, too) were playing in a field across the street from their house (where today a car wash stands). Somehow, the children had matches. According to Bill: “The little boy, he died in a fire. He was burnt. They were playing, kids with matches, and they made a fire right here where you turn down the alley, and they put him in a box and lit it. He didn’t live long.” Since the boy was living in a house where the father’s name was Varady, it was assumed that was his name was Varady, too, and that is how he was identified in his obituary; but the boy killed was John Novak.

Charles Novack talks about the accident that killed his younger brother John

Charles Novack talks about the accident that killed his younger brother John

Obit John Novak 7-6-25

Obituary, John Novak

Funeral notice John Novak 7-7-25

Funeral notice, John Novak

Grave, John Novak 1925

Grave, John Novak, Pottstown, PA


Unknown couple

Andy (1875-1939) and Mary (1894-1972) Varady

The 1920s in America was the time of Prohibition, but that meant little to many people – especially the Hungarians. Charlie Novack remembers that his stepfather, Andrew Varady(1), had his own still. He also remembers that at some point, a neighbor, Louis Tutor, angry that Varady would not sell him any moonshine, turned Varady into the authorities and, for good measure, joined the raiding party. For this, Varady had to spend between 90 days in the jail in Norristown. Novack also remembers a time when the authorities for the Reading Railroad, where Andrew and Bill Varady worked, had to come to the house to get back some tools that Andrew had “borrowed” unlawfully.

Charlie Novack talks about Andy Varady and his still

Charlie Novack talks about Andy Varady and his still

A fond memory that Charlie has is of waking up on cold winter mornings and coming downstairs to find that Varady, who was already at work, had made potato pancakes for breakfast for all of them.

The Gang

Helen (Varady) Mazza, Charlie Novack, Joe Varady, Francis Varady, Betty (Varady) Basco, Margaret (Varady) Toth, Steve Novak, Gus Novak

Otherwise, most memories of this era were not fond ones. Life was very hard for this family. The house was very, very small, with the room that many remember as the kitchen only being built in 1929. Up until then, the front room in the house had been the kitchen, which left only the dining room and three small bedrooms upstairs. This housed Mary and Andrew, Bill, Andy, Mary, Joe, Gus, Steve, Johnny, Charlie, Helen, Betty, Margaret, and Francis. As well, the family also had to take in boarders to help make ends meet.

Feeding and clothing this bunch was a hard task when you consider that Andrew (1) and Bill were the only ones working when the family came together. Mary(1) grew what food she could for them (and for half of Stowe, according to legend), and she found it all very trying. Raising all of these children was tough on her, and she could be a hard woman, especially to her stepchildren. For reasons we can never know, and which we cannot rightly judge, she was very harsh to them, especially Helen, and also to her own son, Francis. More than one person would tell the story of how Mary(1) would drag Helen down the stairs by her hair and beat her; and Margaret and Francis both recalled the beatings that Francis received.

Charlie talks about how the kids used to steal coal for the family

Charlie talks about how the kids used to steal coal for the family

She is also reported to have burned all the pictures of Varady’s second wife, the mother of her stepchildren.
Francis (on bike), Helen, Betty, Margaret, Alex (baby), and Mary Varady, July 1932

On bike: Francis; Middle: Helen, Betty, Margie; Rear: Alex, Mary(2)

In later years, Helen would run away, rarely to return, and the same went for Francis. But for the others, what Mary(1) did for them would generate a very fierce loyalty to her. To her other stepchildren, she was Mom, and it is a tribute to her that many of their children did not realize until they were grown that she was not their biological grandmother. I believe the best characterization of Mary(1) is this from her granddaughter, Sharon Basco Koch: “We all adored Granny and all felt like we were her favorites. In the usual way of the world, she was a much better grandmother than she was a mother. She had far too much to do, being poor and responsible for an enormous brood, as a mother for tenderness to play much of a role. But all her kids were devoted to her.”

Of Andrew Varady(1), many kinder things have been said – how well he treated the children; how he was a writer and a leader of the Hungarian Reformed church. Of his whiskey-making abilities, I have spoken above. Betty Hegyi remembers that when they would go to visit, if she wanted to see her grandfather, she had to go to the garage, which is where he spent a lot of time. More than one person would remember the awful smell of his “cheap Italian cigars”. In the front yard of her house in Bethlehem, PA, 70 years later, Betty would show with great pride a rose bush and tell how, on one visit to her grandparents’ house, she admired Varady’s roses. When it came time to leave, to her great surprise, he had dug up a transplant for her. No matter where she lived, Betty said, she had kept alive that very dear present from her grandfather.

Uncle Charlie and Marianne talk about Granny, her temper, her views on Catholics

Uncle Charlie and Marianne talk about Granny, her temper, her views on Catholics


William Varady, Mary Novak, 11-30-29 (2)

William Varady and Mary Novak, November 30, 1929

Young Mary Novak(2), though, didn’t have especially fond memories of her stepfather, and she would relate to me that the reason she ended up marrying her stepbrother Bill was so that Andrew(1) would stop making passes at her. We look back on this and wonder what a shock it must have been for the family when they learned about Bill and Mary - not just that they were dating but that they wanted to marry. Bill said that they tried to hide it for a while, but that wasn't a very easy thing to do. The couple married on July 18, 1931, at St. Paul’s Hungarian Reformed Church in Stowe. The wedding reception lasted the entire weekend, and the house was full of people. Betty Hegyi remembers the occasion very well, recalling that the women cooked and baked and the men drank. She laughed as she told the story of how Mary Varady(1) had pies cooling on a windowsill, and Charlie Fodor was drunk, sitting on the sill, as well. Mary yelled at him, “If you knock my pies off of there, I’ll break your goddamned neck!” (Believe me, it sounds better in Hungarian). Bill used to say (I think to get his wife Mary going) of the wedding and reception that Mary was so excited that she didn’t know whether to stand on her head or dance. Apparently, the wedding would be remembered by neighbors for years for the number of guests at the reception and the fact that it really did last all weekend.

Bill and Mary's Wedding

Bill and Mary's Wedding

Wedding of Mary Novak and William Varady, July 18, 1931, St. Paul's Hungarian Reformed Church, Stowe, PA (2)

July 18, 1931, wedding of Bill and Mary Varady; Margaret and Betty are the flower girls; also in picture: Charles Fodor and Mary (Harsanyi) Kocsi


The 1930s were a time of change for the family. Young Andy Varady(2) married Blanche Ponticelli in 1933, and they settled in Bethlehem. Andrew Varady(1) had to retire in 1937 from the Reading Railroad when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He would die two years later, at 7:20 p.m. on September 12, 1939. Marianne Reigner still remembers clearly (Bill and Mary were still living at the house) the casket in the living room for the wake and how the old Hungarian men sat with the casket all night, drinking and talking. Charlie Novack would recall that before it was taken to the church for the funeral, it sat outside under the pear tree, and, when it was time to leave, Alex held on to the tree and had to be pulled off of it.

Death cert Andrew Varady (father)

Death certificate, Andrew Varady (1)

Obit Andrew Varady (father)

Obituary and funeral notice, Andrew Varady(1)


Johnny Varady, who enlisted in the Army in 1936, became the first soldier from Pottstown to die in World War II, when he was killed in the UK on October 7, 1942.

John and Mary Varady

John Varady and his stepmother, Mary

Obit - John Varady - Mercury 10-14-42

Obituary, John Varady, The Pottstown Mercury, October 14, 1942


Charles Fodor

Charles Fodor

Charles Fodor, half-brother of Andrew Varady(1) committed suicide after a short illness on December 13, 1949.

Obit - Charles Fodor Phoenixville Daily Republican, Wednesday, 12-14-49, page 1

Obituary, Charles Fodor, Phoenixville Daily Republican, December 14, 1949


Joseph Novak lived in Stowe, with the Hydu family, for several years following his separation from Mary. He moved to Bridgeport, CT, in the early 1930s, where he worked odd jobs. He spent the last years of his life in the Simsbury Convalescent Home, Simsbury, CT, where he died on January 22, 1970, at the age of 88.

Death cert - Joseph Novak

Death certificate, Joseph Novak


Mary (Gyula) Novak Varady died on January 21, 1972.

Obit- Mary (Gyula) Novak Varady

Obituary and funeral notice, Mary Varady(1)


Mary (Gyula) Novak Varady's brother, Joseph, and his wife Anna were the parents of eight children: Anne (1910-2002); Helen (1912-1996); Joseph (1913-1984); Marian (1917-2000); John (1918-1987); Elizabeth (1922-1998); Rose, who died in her 20s of TB; and Michael, who died of pneumonia at 2. Joseph, who was only 40, died on July 21, 1924. Anna would live another 43 years, died on August 29, 1967.

Joseph and Anna Gyula

Joseph and Anna Gyula

Rosemary (O'Connor) Toscano Dosch, Anne's daughter, "She had never become a citizen ; Grandpa died while in the process . Her children supported her- first in an apartment and later by taking her on a rotation basis into their homes. She caused so much trouble that they finally found a place for her with an uncle's niece. Grandma never spoke of family. In fact, she couldn't speak much English. I remember her & mom speaking Hungarian and refusing to teach me when i begged because I was 'American'. She was a bitter old lady who would set sibling against sibling. She had had a rough life, losing (the breadwinner) her young husband and also 2 year- old- Michael to pneumonia. Rose died in her early 20s of TB. She had been in a sanitarium and didn't take care when she came home, stayed out late and partied, according to my mom."

Eleanor, Elizabeth, Helen, Anne, Rosemary

Eleanor Gyula, Elizabeth Rothbeck, Helen Romshock, Anne O'Connor, Rosemary O'Connor Toscano Dosch

"Grandma had her good side too, called me " dollykums " when she was happy with me. I didn't see her very often as I got older, but she died at my mother's house. I had just returned from Europe, during which time mom took care of my children. When grandma was very ill, Mom sent my kids to my in-laws and took Grandma in. (Mom had been a practical nurse before I was born.) We had to go back to MN, and Grandma died a few weeks later."\

Helen married Joseph Romshock, and they had two children, Eleanor and Charles.

Helen Gyula

Helen (Gyula) Romshock

Wedding of Joe and Frances Gyula

Wedding of Joseph and Frances Gyula

Joseph and Frances Gyula had one son, Joseph, Jr.

Anne married Edward O'Connor. They were the parents of two daughters, Rosemary and Veronica.

Marian married Lester McClear, and their oldest child died in infancy; then came Diane, Marian, Ronald, Lorraine, Donna, and Robbie.

John and his wife Eleanor (who lives in Lodi, NJ) were the parents of three children: John, Eleanor, and Donald.

Elizabeth was the wife of Fred Rothbeck. Fred, Jr., Eric, and Patricia are their children. Fred, Sr., lives in Toms River, NJ.

Wedding of Elizabeth Gyula and Fred Rothbeck

Wedding of Elizabeth Gyula and Fred Rothbeck; Joseph Gyula is at far right.


Mary (Gyula) Novak Varady's father, Gyula Vince, despite being in his early 60s, was conscripted to fight in the Austro-Hungarian army at the beginning of World War I. He would take ill soon after and return to Somodi, where he died in 1914. Gyula Amália died in 1941.

Mary's three remaining brothers in Hungary all married and had families of their own.

Gyula Vince married Ferencz Ilona, born March 29 1896 on March 20, 1912, in the village of Debröd. They were the parents of three children, Ilona (born in 1914), József (born in 1921), and Gabriella. Ilona had two children, Gusztáv and József. József was the father of three children, Rozália, Ilona, and József. Gabriella was childless.

Gyula István es Júlia had two sons, János and István. János had three children: János, Katalin, and Sándor. István had five children: Lászlo, Éva, József, István, and Tibor.

Gyula Menyhért was the father of four children: Anna, István, Gizella, Mária. Anna was the mother of four children - László, Katalin, Pali, and Imre). István fathered four children: Géza, Gizella, Gabi, and Mária. Menhyért's daughter Mária was the mother of three children - Mária, Viktor, and László.

It is interesting to note that Menyhert's granddaughter (Istvan's daughter, Gizella) today lives in the same house where Gyula Vince es Amália raised their family in Somodi.

Mary's sister Margit would marry a man named Kocsis János, and they were the parents of two daughters, Mária and Alzbeta (Erzsébet). He was a successful contractor, and he and Margit were one of the wealthiest families in Somodi, able to take holidays in foreign countries and to spas, and they even had a maid. During World War II, János, like so many other men throughout eastern Europe, was spirited away to Russia, never to be heard from again. To this day, where he was taken and when he died are mysteries. A memorial in Drienovec (modern-day Somodi), lists the men of the village who were taken away to Russia. Among the names on this wall are two other men named Kocsis, a Novák, and a Tóth.

Margit would never remarry. She is remembered as a pleasant woman, well-liked, and very helpful. Following her husband's disappearance and the eventual Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, she used to work planting trees in the forests around Drienovec. Her daughter Erzsébet used to crochet, like her mother, and she even sent some of her work to family in the US. Margit died at home of a cerebral hemorrhage somewhere between 1975 and 1977.

Memorial, Drinenovec

Memorial, Drienovec

Magazine scan 3

St. Martin's RC Church and the village memorial in Drienovec


Obit - Elizabeth Hydu

Obituary, Elizabeth Hydu


Molly and Andy Remenar were the parents of two other children, John and Betty. Andy died in 1977, and Molly died at the age of 97 in 2000.

Molly and Andy Remenar

Molly and Andy Remenar

Unknown men

Andy Remenar and Andy (1875-1939) Varady

From L - Erzsineni Varadi, Bertha Varadi, unknown, Molly Remenar, Sandor Varadi, Ida Varadi

Molly with some Varadys in Dombrad


Bill and Mary(2) were the parents of four children, Marianne, Arlene, Carol, and John. Varady worked in a cement plant and for the Reading Railroad in his younger years, as well as at several other jobs. For a time, he owned a shoe repair shop a half block off of High Street on York Street in Pottstown. But he will always be remembered for being one of the first TV repairmen in Pottstown, operating first out of a shop on High Street and then out of his garage (where most of the parts are still sitting, I think). He died on July 15, 1992, at the age of 86, and Mary died on February 9, 2003, at the age of 89.

Mary and Bill Varady 12-86

Mary and Bill Varady, Christmas Day 1986

Obit - Bill Varady 2

Obituary, Bill Varady

Obit - Mary N. Varady

Obituary, Mary Varady(2)


Andy(2) and Blanche Varady would have three children, John, Dorothy, and AnnMarie. Andy was the proprietor of a garage in the Bethlehem area, and he died on May 12, 1971, at the age of 61.

Blanche and Andy Varady

Blanche and Andy Varady

Obit - Andy Varady

Obituary, Andy Varady(2)


Joseph Varady married Helen Valko in 1941, and they were the parents of four children, Joey, Mary Ann, Elaine, and Kathy. Joe died at the age of 55 on February 3, 1970.

Joe and Helen

Joe and Helen

Obit - Joe Varady

Obituary, Joe Varady


Joseph “Gus” Novak would marry for a short period of time, but he thought better of it, and he lived the remainder of his life as a bachelor, dying at the age of 60 on September 24, 1976.

Gus Novak

Gus Novak

Obit - Gus Novak

Obituary, Gus Novak


Steve Novak married Catherine Supco in 1942, and they were the parents of four children, Jay, Dennis, Michael, and Kathy. He worked at Spicer’s (Dana) and also dabbled in real estate and construction. A lifelong baseball (and Schmidt’s) fan, Novak Little League field in Pottstown was named in honor of him. He died on March 29, 1986, following years of crippling arthritis.

Steve and Kay Novak, Kathy, Michael, Kyra Harmanos - 1984 reunion

Kyra Harmanos, Kay Novak, Kathy (Novak) Harmanos, Steve Novak, Michael Harmanos

Obit - Steve Novak

Obituary, Steve Novak

Obit - Kay Novak

Obituary, Kay Novak


Uncle Charlie died on July 23, 2013, following a full retirement spent tending to his garden and watching his beloved Phillies and Eagles. He and his wife, the former Betty Shirey (married November 14, 1953), were the parents of one son, Gary. Betty died in 2008.

Charlie Betty 50th Anniv 11-14-03

Charlie and Betty on their 50th wedding anniversary, November 14, 1953

Charlie in field

Here is the obituary for Betty from April 8, 2008:


Betty E. (Shirey) Novack, 78, wife of Charles J. Novack, of Stowe, passed away on Friday, April 4th, at ManorCare in Pottstown. Born in Amityville, PA, she

was the daughter of the late Walter and Kate (Rickert) Shirey.

Betty was a member of Zion's United Church of Christ, Pottstown. She loved to garden, cook, bake, and can food.

In addition to her husband is a son, Gary A. Novack, Sr., and his wife Marie, of Pottstown; brothers, Elmer and Earl Shirey; sisters, Marie Kappenstine and Etta Helmle;

grandchildren, 2nd Lt. Gary A. Novack, Jr., USAF, stationed in Columbus, MS, and Jo Anne Soja; and four great-grandchildren,.

Along with her parents, she was predeceased by brothers Walter and George Shirey and sister Esther Warren.

A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, April 9th, 10:30 a.m., at Catagnus Funeral Home and Cremation Center, Inc., 711 North Franklin Street, Pottstown, with

Rev. Peter Nichols officiating.

Burial will be private.

Friends may call 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Zion's UCC, Hanover and Chestnut Streets, Pottstown, PA, 19464.


Helen Varady married a boy from the neighborhood, Louis Tutor (whose father had her father thrown in jail in the 1920s), in the early 1940s, but they separated soon after. She moved to Philadelphia, where with Angelo Mazza she had seven children: Angela, Anthony, Tomas, Donald, John, Robert, and Frank. Following Louis Tutor’s death in the 1970s, she and Angelo were married. Helen died on November 7, 1991, never having reconciled with her family.

Angelo and Helen Mazza

Angelo and Helen (Varady) Mazza


Betty Varady married John Basco in 1944, and together, they began the Pottstown Municipal Airport and Basco Flying Service*. They were the parents of five children, John Jerome, Robert, Sharon, Richard, and Holly. Holly passed away on August 21, 1987. Uncle John, who was a veteran of some extremely dangerous and harrowing bombing missions over Europe during World War II, and who logged thousands of hours in the sky stateside, died peacefully in his own bed (see obituary below) in 1991. Aunt Betty, a gracious, soft-spoken lady and everyone's favorite picnic hostess, as well as a tireless worker for the church that was at the center of her life for her entire 81 years, died the week before Christmas in 2005.

John and Betty in plane

John and Betty Basco

Uncle Gus-Uncle John Basco

Construction of the Pottstown Municipal Airport; Gus Novak, second from left; John Basco, second from right

Basco 4-4-47

Pottstown Mercury, April 4, 1947

Basco 4-4-47 2

Pottstown Mercury, April 4, 1947, part 2

Obit - John Basco p1

Obituary, John Basco, page 1

Obit - John Basco p2

Obituary, John Basco, page 2

Obit - Betty Basco

Obituary, Betty Basco


Margaret Varady married Wilmer Toth in 1946, and they had three children, Marsha, Janie, and Mark. Margaret died a week after Betty, in December 2005, and Wilmer followed in November 2006.

Here is the text of Wilmer's obituary:

Wilmer Toth, 82, of West Paris, Maine, formerly of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Phoenixville, died on November 9, 2006, at Ledgeview Living Center in West Paris, Maine. Born in Phoenixville, on Dec. 12, 1923, his parents were the late Louis and Veronica (Enyedy) Toth. Wilmer graduated from Phoenixville High School in 1941, served in the U.S. Army during WWII, and attended Rutgers University and Ursinus College. He worked for more than 35 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer in the pressroom, retiring with wife Margaret to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1986. He loved sacred music, and sang in churches from Maine to California. He also loved singing solos at Toth and Varady weddings and celebrations. In addition to music, he was an avid sports fan, especially football, loved Margie's cooking, was thrilled to live in Vegas, and traveled to all states in the continental U.S. Surviving are his daughter, Marsha Burns and husband Carl, of Andover, Maine; three grandchildren, Amy Byrne, Dover, N.H., Thomas Byrne and wife Anne, Auburn, Maine, and Casandra Toth, Pompano Beach, Fla., and two great-granddaughters, Marley and Emma Byrne, and nieces and nephews Richard, David, Joe, Harry, Margie, Barbara, Bertie, Patty, and Ron. He is predeceased by his wife, Margaret (Varady) of West Paris, Maine, daughter Jane Wheeler, Norristown, and son Mark Toth, Philadelphia, and all of his siblings. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2006, at the First Congregational Church in Andover, Maine. Contributions in lieu of flowers: Ledgeview Activity Fund, 141 Bethel Road, West Paris, ME 04289. Arrangements by Andrews Funeral Home, 64 Andrews Road, South Woodstock, Maine.

Marge and Wilmer - 1984

Marge and Wilmer, 1984

Margaret Toth obituary 2005

Obituary for Margaret Toth


Francis Varady lived a very sad and solitary existence, the story of which could fill these pages and more. Following the death of his father, he ran away constantly and spent some time in a reform school. He left Pennsylvania shortly after being arrested for robbing Bill Varady’s radio and TV store in 1947.

Frank 1-17-48

Article about robbery of Bill Varady's store, Pottstown Mercury, January 17, 1948

Frank 1-17-48 2

Article about robbery of Bill Varady's store, Pottstown Mercury, January 17, 1948, part 2

Frank 1-21-48

Article about Frank's arrest, Pottstown Mercury, January 21, 1948

Frank 1-21-48 2

Article about Frank's arrest, Pottstown Mercury, January 21, 1948, part 2

Other than a phone call in the mid-1950s to Alex Varady by the FBI, who were looking for Francis, nothing was known of him until 1978, when, he called his brother Steve and wanted to come home. He had been drifting around the country since he left in the 1940s, had spent some time in prison (where, interestingly, he became one of the many interviewees of Dr. Kinsey).

Shortly after his return, his brother Bill took him to visit the grave of his parents, Andrew and Mary. Frank's eyes would fill with tears as he told how, standing in front of the headstone, Bill put his arm around Frank and said, in Hungarian, "Mom, your wandering son has come home."

Frank was the victim not only of abuse at home but repeated sexual assault as a young boy outside the home, as well. Sadly, Frank went from being a victim to a predator, and he was a pedophile. I believe the "wandering ways" mentioned in his obituary below had more to do with that than anything else. Frank was a very complex and troubled individual.

Frank Varady, 12-24-78

Frank Varady, December 24, 1978

He found a peace that he had been looking for all of his life in a little town in Colorado, where he died on April 1, 2001, at the age of 74. The following appeared in the local newspaper in Sheridan Lake, Colorado, on Frank's death. Knowing of Frank's predilection for boys (which these people didn't), the detail about his fondness for children is unsettling, but the detail about the choice of music at his funeral, strangely comic:

"Frank Varady was born November 8, 1926, in Stowe, Pennsylvania, which is just outside of Philadelphia. He departed this life April 1, 2001, in Eads. He was one of 14 children born to Andrew and Mary Varady. Frank attended school through the tenth grade. He joined the Army in 1945 at the age of 19. He spent most of World War II in the Philippines. After leaving the Army, Frank went back to Pennsylvania.

He entered the trucking business with his brother-in-law, and when that didn't pan out, Frank hit the road and started his wandering ways. Over the next 30 years, Frank did about everything a man could want to do. He traveled the United States, and enjoyed life to the utmost.

In his lifetime, Frank had several occupations. He was a bellhop in a hotel in Dodge City, worked in the melon sheds and sold fruit in California, worked wheat harvest and in grain elevators all over the Midwest. He also leased and operated cafes, which is what probably led to his love of cooking.

Frank landed in Sheridan Lake in 1985, where he worked for Jim Richardson that summer at the elevator. From that time on he would live in California in the winter and return to work harvest for Jim in the summer. Frank moved to Sheridan Lake, and finally put roots down about six years ago. When Frank settled in Sheridan Lake, he started working with Mike Benge at Kiowa Oil Co. He pumped gas, always giving the locals a rough time, and there were times it was difficult to figure out who actually ran the place.

Frank's passions were singing hymns in church and passing Tootsie Roll Pops to the kids after church and cooking meals for his many friends. He fed just about everyone in the Sheridan Lake, Towner and Eads communities at one time or another. If you left his house hungry, it was not Frank's fault.

Frank was very community minded. After Frank adopted the communities as his family, he was very involved in whatever was going on. He tirelessly raised money for the present activities fund. He was responsible for Sheridan Lake's Fourth of July celebration, which has become an annual event. He put numerous hours of work into the planning of the parade, barbeque and the fireworks display like no other in a town Sheridan Lake's size. When a family from Los Angeles wrote to the Kiowa County Press to inform them of their vacation plans in Sheridan Lake, Frank took it upon himself and enlisted the community for help and gave the family a welcome and vacation they won't soon forget.

Frank is survived by three sisters, Mary Varady, Betty Basco, and Marge Toth; and two brothers, Alex Varady, and Charles Novak. Although Frank had family in Pennsylvania and Nevada, he also considered the people of the Sheridan Lake and Towner communities his family. Frank will be missed by all of us very much.

Funeral services for Frank Varady were held April 4, 2001, at Plainview High School with Pastor Larry Gitchel and Rev. Keith Fink officiating. Sherell Stum played the organ and Judy Splitter, Cheri Hopkins and Christy Hopkins served as vocalists, singing some of Frank's favorite hymns, "Face to Face," "He Touched Me," and "Bind Us Together." Casket bearers were Mike Benge, John Crowell, Merle Shalberg, Carl Blodgett, Bob Dawson and Jim Richardson. Final committal services were held at the Sheridan Lake Cemetery.

Funeral arrangements were under the direction of Brown Funeral Home."


Alex Varady married La Rue Hurter in 1953, and they are the parents of four children, Debbie, David, Donna, and Darin.

Alex, Larue, David, and Lori Varady, 1984

Alex and LaRue and Mr. and Mrs. David Varady, 1984

Alex and LaRue

Alex and LaRue's wedding announcement

Alex and LaRue 12-21-53

Read the small blurb in the upper right hand corner about LaRue being surprised by a visit from her soldier boy.

Passenger List Alex Varady 1953

Passenger manifest when Alex surprised LaRue, Christmas, 1953


From Dawn (Mazza) Ogden, Helen (Varady) Mazza’s granddaughter:Edit

I remember my grandmother telling me that she had been beaten as a child by her stepmother....I also remember her telling me her father was sick with T.B. She never knew how her mother died...she thought she died giving birth to her....she spoke fondly of her brothers....especially Andy and Bill....the only weird thing she said her father was in a wheelchair....I do not remember reading that.

She was the hardest working person I know...she scrubbed floors and cleaned houses for people....I remember as a child I used to go with her to clean this one house and the driveway was so long it took forever to get to the house....when inside she would go from room to room and be on her hands and knees and I think of her until this day when I smell pledge....

She was quite sick all her life with different would never know how sick she was she never showed it....Her tolerance for pain and discomfort was unlike anything I have ever seen....You could tell she had a rough start in life based on her tolerance.

She loved life and loved the beach....she lived in Atlantic City and worked in the casinos...I would spend summers with her....Her and my grandfather were separated for many years but still remained married. My pop loved her and would give her anything she wanted....he was a hardworking man and would give her money every year to go to Florida....she would go on cruises and travel to the finest beaches in Bermuda and all over....she loved the beach and loved to travel....she had a lust for the finer things in life you could tell...she would love to dress up and put on tons of jewelry...she went through a phase where she would draw in her eyebrows(because they were very light) and she never did it straight....let's put it this way it would make a makeup artist cringe.....she would stay up all night and play poker with her friends...I can remember falling asleep on her lap during this...she never missed a beat.....I remember her large arms would comfort me and the smell of her perfume would put me to sleep....while her card game carried on....I used to go to bingo with her and she would have a table full of cards and she would be stamping her brains she managed all these cards would amaze me, but when she would hit bingo she would scream and the entire neighborhood probably heard.....she loved Tony Orlando. Julio Iglesias and Engelbert Humperdinck.

She would spoil me rotten. I was her first grandchild and she would buy me expensive dresses and dress me up like a princess...I would have gold bathingsuits with matching sandals to go to the beach....I spent a lot of time with her and loved her with all my heart.....I always loved her...when I was a child I idolized her and as I grew older I could talk to her about anything and ask all types of questions.....that is how I know about her childhood....She loved baseball and would sit and listen to every Phillies game that was not televised.....she had a little hand held radio that she listened to....she was a great cook and learned to cook Italian food. She used to make pitzells and stack them up around the father would eat them as fast as she would crank them out....she would say "OH JOHNNY" cut it out!!!! and then laugh....I remember this!!!! My father was quite young only 18 when he had me so I remember a lot....I was almost a sibling instead of a niece....My grandparents raised me too!!!.

She was very vain...she never let a gray hair grow on her head...she was always at the hairdresser getting her hair matter how sick she was she always did that....

She loved to play cards poker, bingo and laugh with her friends.....everyone loved her.....she had many god children and many people referred to her as aunt was not until years later that I realized these people were not related to us.....

One of the memories I hold dear...." My grandparents were not affectionate really" God knows how they had 7 kids.....actually I think Frankie had a twin that died so it might be 8....I remember her telling me that, but no one was able to confirm it.

When she was sick in the hospital with the final heart attack...she was lying in the bed with all these tubs connected to uncle Donald and uncle Robert did not talk at the time.....they hated each other....when they walked into the hospital room together a small tear trickled down her face.......A day or so later while still in the hospital the Dr.....came out and said they need to do surgery and her rate of survival was very low 20%, but without the procedure to fix this valve she would die....we agreed and the surgery was done.....I can still remember her being rolled into the O.R. our eyes met for the last time and I know I would never see her alive again......that night all of us at the hospital were waiting in the lobby.....except Donald....(he came later) The Doctor came out(it was like a movie scene) and took off his hat and you could see he was upset....he said "I am sorry" we all broke down.....about 1/2 hour later Donald shows up....he is standing there all by himself....he said so how is mom....I walked over to him and said she is dead with tears streaming down my face....he pushed my away and ran down the hall....I watched him from the window collapse at the next lobby.....he did not want anyone to see him cry.....

Later that night they asked us if we wanted to view her before the undertakers took her body grandfather and I went into the room.....I never saw him this way .....He leaned over her body and sobbed on top of her...."Oh Helen, he kept saying" It broke every bit of my heart to see this!!!!!

To sum her up she was a fun lady....she had a spunk and was very feisty....she moved very fast and never seemed to slow down....she loved her children and we all loved her!!!!!

From Debbie (Varady) Katch:Edit

Favorite memories of Grandma and the Homestead are of Thanksgiving dinners with wonderful pies, nut roll, poppy seed roll, and Lekvar cookies, with everyone together at a table that seemed to stretch forever. On the way home, we always went through town to see the Christmas lights, which were lit Thanksgiving night.

From Jay and Ginny Novak:Edit

As for the memories of the old homestead on Ash St., Jay remembers going there & picking cherries off the tree & also visiting with the family & having delicious homemade cookies. I always remember how nice "Aunt Mary" was to me whenever I went over to visit & made me feel like part of the family.

From Kathy (Novak) Harmanos:Edit

Some of my memories of reunions are Richard Reigner as the auctioneer and roasting bacon over an open fire and absorbing the drippings onto fresh rye bread from Prince's Bakery from Pottstown.

From Billy Geisler:Edit

"Noodles, Pickles, and Pepper Stew"

My memories of growing up in “the old house in Stowe” are many. Being a lazy teenager, a lot of those memories involve sounds and smells wafting up from the kitchen as I lay in bed. The many foods that Nan prepared for all to enjoy will always be remembered and missed. At the time not realizing that someday this will all come to an end. I think a lot of us feel this way - most of all not really appreciating these things enough at the time. I remember Saturday mornings being probably the busiest time in Nan Varady’s kitchen. There was always someone stopping by. The voice of Aunt Betty Novack and her hearty laugh. Aunt Betty and Uncle John Basco visiting. Sometimes, just Uncle John with one of his grandchildren (Johnny, Kim, Andrew, Richie, Jessica, and Alex) coming from the airport and on the way home. And the many hearty debates between Pop and Uncle John or whomever else dared to question the Nixon Administration. One of the great things about growing up in the Stowe house was the constant visits from family and friends. Betty DeChico(?) and the really loud lady that talked from the time she arrived until the time she left. The times spent with all of my wonderful cousins, aunts, and uncles. A person that I will always appreciate and miss greatly is Uncle Richard. Not just for his funny stories and hearty appetite, but for his generous way. You could always count on Uncle Richard. He made us all laugh, but what I admired most is that he never had a bad thing to say about anyone. He was a hard working man with no complaints and a desire to keep all of those around him smiling. He is greatly missed. What I remember most is Nan. I remember a little Hungarian woman that was small in stature but had giant strength. She was a simple kind of woman that lived a simple life. She didn’t expect anything from anyone that she didn’t expect of herself. I remember a selfless woman that was always giving. One couldn’t leave the Varady house without taking something with. Whether it was a bag of homemade noodles, or a container of pepper stew, or a jar of home-canned pickles. She was all about giving. Memories of the family reunions of yesteryear are many. It was one time of the year that I greatly looked forward to. The large gathering of family was always fun and exciting. The memories at Aunt Betty and Uncle John Basco’s will never be forgotten.

From Cindy (Reigner) Strohm:Edit

I guess my first memories at Grandmom’s house would be playing out back under those sour cherry trees and being told by the "grownups" not to pick any cherries or go anywhere near the garden. I remember the year Uncle John came in that old car with the picky rumble seat and us kids (and some of our crazy adults, I think my Mom was one of those) all got to have a spin around Stowe. Does anyone else of my generation remember sneaking upstairs and going down the hall by Uncle Gus's room (which we were told to stay away from)and looking down that old grate in the floor to spy on the people downstairs at that big dining room table? And coming of "age", meaning when we were finally old enough to take our first of many airplane rides with Uncle John. I remember one time, there must have been maybe four of us, and one of us started crying as we were going down the runway, and he stopped and left HIM out, yes it was one of my boy cousins(I wish I could remember which one),then off again we'd go while one of the MOMS stood waiting with the rest of the kids. Those sure were the days - not a care in the world, good times that will be missed but never forgotten.

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