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Ernest (Ernie, Ernő) Gergely was a devoted father, husband and inspiration who left the ruins of postwar Europe to achieve success in the United States through education, determination, and hard work. He died peacefully on January 2 in Connecticut after attempting to recover from a stroke several months earlier. He will be dearly missed and fondly remembered for his intelligence, humor, and storytelling.
Gergely Ernő was born on the banks of the Danube River in Dunaalmás, Hungary and raised in nearby Komárom where he attended school during World War II. After the war, he and his family moved to Budapest, where he attended graduate school and entered the practice of law. Always intellectual curious and adept with languages, he often spent time in the reading room of the British Embassy in Budapest learning English. These activities led to his unlawful arrest and jailing as an enemy of the state. Like many young Hungarians frustrated with the oppressive Communist government, he joined the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. After the uprising was defeated by Soviet troops and tanks, he escaped across the heavily mined border into Austria, living as a refugee in Vienna. He was selected for immigration to the United States as part of Operation Safe Haven, sailing on a U.S. troop ship from Bremerhaven, Germany to the U.S. He settled in New York City, but his prospects were limited by a Hungarian Communist-era law degree that was useless in his new country. Under the sponsorship of a Hungarian church in New York City, he attended New York University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1961. After college, he worked as an engineer for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, but soon returned to New York City where he used his engineering degree in a new career as a patent agent. He married his wife Katalin (Fodor) (also of Komárom, Hungary) in New York City in 1964.
In 1967, he began a long legal career with General Electric, who sponsored his attendance at New York Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1970. He practiced patent law with GE for many years in the International division of its law department in Manhattan, residing in Garden City, New York, and later Wilton, Connecticut. He often traveled to Europe and Japan for various GE intellectual property law initiatives. He worked with GE engineers and scientists in many locations on a wide range of technologies, including jet engines and ultrasound. He retired from GE in the early 1990s, maintaining an active consulting and private law practice for a number of years.
In retirement, he and Katalin lived at The Saugatuck in Westport, Connecticut, where they had many friends. They also spent time in Tucson, Arizona, where they maintained a residence. He and Katalin traveled often, including taking an around the world trip. He was an avid opera fan and devoted supporter of Hungarian culture. He spent many days with family and friends at Compo Beach in Westport, driving himself each sunny day up until the age of 90.
He is survived by a daughter, Christina Miller, and a son, Peter Gergely (Lisa), as well as five grandchildren, Anna, Tommy and Julia Gergely, and Ryan and Nicole Miller. His wife of 37 years, Katalin Gergely, predeceased him in 2001.
A reception celebrating his life will be held on Sunday, January 6, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. at The Saugatuck, 35 Bridge Street, Westport, Connecticut.