Life Story / Obituary
Laszlo Pal Szeles was born in Ujpest, Hungary, in 1931, to Margit (mother) and Laszlo (father). He was the oldest of five children, excelled at soccer in his region, where he was even asked to join the Hungarian national team, and worked as a Metallurgist at a metals lab.
In 1955, he married Ilona Vilma McMahon (nee Dicso). In 1956, Laszlo and Ilona escaped from Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution, concerned for their freedom and safety. After almost a year of dogged determination amidst refugee camps across Europe, they immigrated together to the United States. They eventually settled in Granite City, Illinois, where Laszlo acquired a job at Granite City Steel. He began as a day laborer and worked his way up to the position of Roll Grinder Operator. He remained a proud Union Steelworker at Granite City Steel for 32 years.
In 1960, with Ruben Mendoza, Laszlo helped create the YMCA youth soccer league in Granite City, Illinois. Over the next three decades, Laszlo was instrumental in popularizing the sport and building an infrastructure of organized leagues and training in the St. Louis and Southern Illinois Region. He worked with players from ages 5 to their early 20s. For several years, he coached in Michigan where he reached the same level of success. Over three decades, he coached many teams that won tournaments and regional championships, and he took many teams to State Championships. He helped many players to develop a lifelong passion for the game, with many of these same players going on to win High School State Championships, securing college soccer scholarships, and coaching teams themselves.
After he and Ilona divorced in the mid-1980s, Laszlo lived with his long-term partner, Madeleine King. They made each other laugh, got under each other’s skin, and deeply enriched each other’s lives. Their love for each other, in turn, enriched their other relationships immeasurably.
He enjoyed photography and won awards for some of his photos. He was also an active wedding photographer. For relaxation, Laszlo adored fishing. In addition to local fishing trips in southern Illinois, he and his family spent many summers renting a cabin in northern Minnesota on Moose Lake, as well as a few other locations in that area. He loved The Benny Hill Show and Fawlty Towers, making people laugh, flirting, Hungarian folk music, and telling stories about the often ridiculous and amazing people he met throughout his life. And he was especially proud to be an American citizen, while honoring his Hungarian heritage.
In 2015, he was diagnosed with dementia. The disease progressed to where he needed round-the-clock care; and in 2017, he was moved to StoryPoint Memory Care in Kalamazoo, Michigan. At StoryPoint, even though his dementia continued to progress, his wit and charm shown through, endearing him to the staff.
Laszlo Pal Szeles (aka Laz, Les) died on Friday, January 7th, 2022 at StoryPoint Memory Care in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He was 90 years old. He was preceded in death by his sister, Munci Hajos; and his brother, Sandor Szeles. He is survived by his sister, Eva Kiraly; his brother, Jozsef Szeles; his three sons: Steven (Lisa), Robert, and Michael (Mary); and his two grandchildren: Alexandra and Elizabeth. He will be remembered and missed by many. Visit Laszlo’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49009. (269) 375-2900.