We all need heroes, people who inspire us to be all we can be. I want to tell you about one of the most inspiring, bright lights in my life, my dear Aunt Agnes.
Dr. Agnes Bunyor Andrasofszky, who passed away recently, just shy of her 93rd birthday, had a profound effect on my life. She was a trailblazing professional in medicine when few women were, and yet she also managed to balance her professional aspirations with both homemaking and always looking her best.
Trailblazing, daring, loving, elegant…she was all those things and so much more.
Agnes was a woman of many talents, all of which she demonstrated with great enthusiasm and love. She achieved a high degree of professional achievement, as an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, at a time when few women were in the field. And yet she was an enthusiastic homemaker who loved to cook, to entertain, and to love her nieces, my sister, my cousin, and me. Her home was an eclectic blend of European furnishings and Americana yet felt elegant and welcoming.
She had guts, too. When she and my uncle were living in Budapest and were given rare permission to travel together to attend a medical conference in Vienna, they grabbed it as a chance to escape the Communist regime. Upon arrival in Vienna they immediately got on the very next plane to leave, with no concern for where it was going, taking only their carry-ons with key documents and mementos. Once they reached the States, she and my uncle had to repeat their internship and residency before relicensing and opening a practice together in Huntingdon, PA. At that time, she trained at the prestigious Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
The closeness between my aunt, mother, and their sister is something I admire the more I age. Despite the Atlantic between them, they maintained close relationships through letters and even cassette tapes of voice recordings that they exchanged (what a gift those are now!).
You see, my aunt also believed in love. Many years after my uncle passed away she met a Hungarian pulmonologist and fell in love at the age of 68. She sold her medical practice and her home, got married, and lived the last third of her life in a small village in southern Hungary. After the Iron Curtain came down, we had some fun travels to visit both my aunts, cousin, and other family members.
But it was no ordinary small town life as my new uncle was a luminary in the Hungarian health care system. Despite retirement as the CEO of a 400 bed hospital in Mosdos, he continued as advisor to the government for health affairs. They had a very active social life with visitors from all over the world. Their home reminded me of the “salons” of Paris where thinkers and philosophers met to exchange ideas. And he had a large family of adult children and grandchildren who were a great joy to my aunt during those years.
Aunt Agnes supported me in everything I did. She introduced me to great books, gave me my first camera, and we shared a love of dogs and gardening. It was she who said, “One can live without dogs but it wouldn’t be worth it,” and I so agree!
There’s so much I admire about my Aunt Agnes, from her tenacity to her elegance to her ability to nurture herself and others while leading a busy life. I will miss her and at the same time, I’ll continue to be inspired to carry her positivity and love forward in my own work and life. I hope you have someone in your life to look up to and who inspires you to be your best self by the example of their life.