Klara Polonyi Tornallyay
March 29, 1929 - March 3, 2022
Klara gave us and taught us many things. During her 92 years, she gave us lots of love and taught us how appreciation and kindness brings you happiness. Klara passed away on March 3, incidentally, the same month in which she was born, after a life full of challenges and blessings. She was born in Hungary. Her mother Amalia passed away at an early age and she and her sister, Irenke, were brought up by their father Bela. She fled Hungary during the Second World War and then again during the Revolution of 1956, both times on foot. Through incredible fortune and the kindness and generosity of Jules Witcover, an American reporter covering the Hungarian Revolution story, she immigrated to the United States as a refugee, with a coat on her back, a shopping bag of oranges and cigarettes, and a husband. Here, she learned English by listening to the radio and reading children’s books. She was forever grateful to the Marble family in Syracuse, NY who sponsored them, giving them the opportunity to start a new life in America.
Early in her life in the US, she lived in Pennsylvania where she became a naturalized citizen. Along with her husband and two little children, she moved to Connecticut in the mid-1960’s, living for many years in Norwalk, always appreciative of the generosity of the then South Norwalk Congregational Church community. Upon retirement, she moved to the Heritage Village Community in Southbury.
Klara was a woman ahead of her time: as a young adult in Hungary she embarked on her own business as a professional photographer, taking advantage of the new requirement for photo IDs for Hungarian citizens and traveling on bicycle with her Rolleiflex churning out ID photos for the populace; long before “organic” was popular, she insisted on “no junk”, and “always fresh”.
Unexpectedly, at the age of 45 she became “single” and she decided to go to college, and graduating at the top of her class. This led to securing a job as an accounts payable and payroll administrator at Dun & Bradstreet where she worked until retirement.
She raised her children well, worked hard, retired, and then gave to others. She spent many years volunteering at the Southbury Training School.
What did she like? She loved flowers, birds, and trees. She had a passion for Nutella! She loved her adoptive country, America. But most of all she loved her family. She loved, and was especially proud of, her two grandchildren, Nora and Ezra, who, although living far away in California, she saw in large doses on family vacations and in smaller doses on video calls. She loved her angel Joy (her daughter from Ghana who take care of her for the last few years of her life), her adopted daughters Diane Betkoski and Barbara Betkoski, her son-in-law Tim, her daughter-in-law Linda, and her son Steve and daughter Cynthia. Klara peacefully passed away from a bit of good old age and a bit of severe dementia. She always said thank you! So, we believe she had happiness!
Her family will hold a private family memorial in early April.