The remarkable life of Tony Hazi

Tony Hazi as a young man.

A LARGE gathering of family and friends attended the funeral service of long-time New Norfolk resident Antal (Tony) Hazi late last month. Conducted by local celebrant Rodney Bester at Graham Family Funerals in New Town, the service celebrated a remarkable journey that started with Tony’s birth in Hungary and ended 92 years later at his home in New Norfolk.

Mr Bester spoke of the times he and many others who were present at the service had worked with Tony at the Royal Derwent Hospital, and after the service many stories of Tony’s love of family, friends, gardening and fishing were shared.

Antal (Tony) Hazi was born on January 28, 1927, to Gyorgy and Jolan at Kelebia, in southern Hungary. Tony attended the village school and recently-found reports show he was an excellent student, studying towards becoming a doctor.

After school Tony was drafted into the Hungarian army as a border guard. Witnessing terrible events and finding his values being tested, he fled his homeland into Austria. He then made his way through Italy to Naples where he had the chance to board either a ship to Canada or one to Australia. All Tony knew was that Canada was cold so he boarded SS Skaugum for Australia. Ironically, he would later spend many a freezing night in camp at Waddamana.

The Skaugum arrived in Melbourne on March 28, 1950, and Tony was sent to Bonegilla Migrant Camp for placement. One month later he was told arrangements had been made for him to start work for the Hydro Electric Commission in Tasmania, as a labourer. Tony made many friends in the Hydro camps and soon settled into local life.

Tony Hazi, left, pictured with New Norfolk
football coach Arthur Olliver in 1953.

He was always determined to embrace the Australian way. and within a year he had completed an English language course. He joined the New Norfolk Football Club and won the Most Determined Player award in 1952. An article in the Mercury of March 27, 1953, featured a photo of the young “new Australian” who was one of few migrants who had taken up the Australian game.

By this time Tony was working at Lachlan Park Hospital and living in the single men’s quarters on the grounds. He played tennis on the hospital courts and also played football with the hospital team. His three goals in a game against Bridgewater earned another mention in the Mercury.

It was around this time that Tony met Pauline Maddox, and, despite the local girls being told not to mingle with the migrant men, romance blossomed. The couple married at St Matthew’s Church on August 14, 1954, and lived in Charles St. Tony loved to cook and Pauline was soon enjoying the many European foods he would prepare.

Tony was always keen to try his hand at anything. Building, concreting or mechanics. Friends could not ask to borrow a tool without being questioned about what it was wanted for, and Tony would probably end up doing the job himself. He was quite the inventor and always found a way to make something new out of something old. Nothing was ever thrown away, because you never know when you may need it someday.

Tony and Pauline’s first child, Suzanne, was born in 1957 and son Craig arrived two years later. Both recall Tony as a devoted father and over the years he was given many opportunities to prove it. Like the time Sue as a toddler stepped backwards off the St Helens pier and Tony dived straight in to save her.

To make ends meet, Pauline worked days and Tony worked nights, with the parenting shared equally. Craig recalls the time, when he was about four years old, when his mother told him “don’t speak to your mother that way” and Craig replied “you’re not my mother, dad is my mother.” Tony’s devotion to his children saw him spending much of his time driving them to their many sporting commitments and he became very involved in the swimming club and school events.

As the family grew, Tony and Pauline moved home several times in New Norfolk before settling into Oast St, where Tony set about renovating and extending the new family home – where Tony would remain until the end. In 1972 Tony travelled with his family back to Europe to visit his sisters and surviving relatives who he had not seen since fleeing Hungary.

Tony’s career saw him qualify as a registered psychiatric nurse and he worked at the re-named Royal Derwent Hospital for more than 35 years. During his time at the hospital he formed many long-lasting friendships. He loved fishing and shooting, and another great love was his garden. He enjoyed harvesting and sharing his crops. He loved to preserve his fruit and could brew a pretty mean drink. The garden gave him the chance to try out some of his inventions, and his garden sprinklers had to be seen to be believed.

Tony retired from work around the same time grandchildren arrived. This allowed Tony to enjoy his favourite role as grandfather, passing on priceless knowledge and wisdom. Now his love of cooking, fishing, gardening could be shared with the next generation. Poppy Tone’s marble birthday cakes were always the highlight of every party.

In retirement Tony and Pauline were again able to travel to Europe and had many interstate road trips prior to Pauline’s death in 2000. The family says Tony will be remembered for his positive ways. As a young man he witnessed many things that could have angered him but instead he embraced a new life on the other side of the world. He worked hard and nurtured a family of his own. He was quietly spoken, well respected, loyal and generous.

Tony Hazi is survived by his children Sue and Craig, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His legacy will live on.

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