Kathy Wilker Megyeri

Profile Updated: September 29, 2010
Residing In: Washington, DC USA
Spouse/Partner: Leslie L. Megyeri
Occupation: retired
Yes! Attending Reunion

Taught h. s. English for 34 years, and retired so burned out that I can't stand being around anyone under 18 years of age. Went on to become free lance writer and my greatest claim to fame is getting published in three volumes of Chicken Soup for the Soul, never realizing that that series garnered readers from all over the world so writing contracts came my way until the recent death of print media. Recently, a man I met in Chicago recognized my by-line and had saved one of my articles. I was so moved that I hugged and then kissed him. As Mark Twain once wrote, "I can live for a full two months on a compliment." The most recent works I've managed to get published was an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on the rats that inhabit Washington's parks, sewers, alleys, and basements. Now that we have a new mayor, I hope he makes an all-out effort to eradicate this city of vermin. Many people who read the piece thought I was alluding to the politicans who love here. My other published articles this year featured Grandparents' Day, the state of elder care in Hungary, and "Mars vs. Venus," an examination of statistics that show that men and women purchase life insurance for different reasons. My writing makes me little or no money but keeps my mind active. Moving to downtown Washington, DC 16 blocks north of the White House from the suburbs has dramatically changed my life. I attend book talks at the National Press Club, go to Smithsonian lectures (all free), and have become politically active so I attend many fund raisers for candidates I care about. My 93-year-old-father resides at Cedarview Care Center so I return to Owatonna every other month to see him, and we both enjoy attending the fair to catch up on news and see fellow Owatonnans. Other than Mike Keefe, Todd Hale is the best source of local news. The true joys of retirement are reading books of my own choosing, never having to grade papers, setting my own schedule each day, lunching with the ladies, and using the restroom when I want instead of running down the hall between classes. This last summer, I was fortunate to accompany Ambassador Nancy Brinker, CEO of Komen for the Cure, to Hungary to watch her buy art for her three homes, and it was an experience I'll never forget as, in one case, she spent $325,000 for a painting of an indecipherable subject. I had never before been exposed to the truly rich and famous, and indeed, they are different from you and me. At the beginning of each day, her secretary laid out her clothes, she had a manicure and a pedicure, had her hair done and held a press conference. In 2009, President Obama awarded her the Congressional Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest award, which had previously been won by Harper Lee, author of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. When I asked Ambassador Brinker what she had done with her award, she admitted the medal was in a drawer in her Palm Beach home. She said, "I want the focus of my life to be on Komen for the Cure, not on me!" She recently released her book, PROMISE ME, a read I encourage all classmates to buy and share with a loved one. In spite of her wealth and stature, she has a delightful sense of humor, typical Midwest charm, and an intense interest inpeople. After all, she was born and raised in Peoria, IL. As I write this, the Tea Party is gaining ground in the US. The American People have definitely taken to the streets as we witnessed firsthand Glenn Beck's March in August and could barely get through Washington last weekend as "Take Back America" marchers had closed Pennsylvania Ave. Americans are indeed angry, and the mid-term elections will soon tell the extent of their discontent. Let's hope that your chosen candidate wins, but even more importantly, that you support your party with money or votes to reflect your wishes. It's always astonishing to me how few people care, give or even vote. I remember the conversation I had at the Kernel Restaurant in Owatonna (next to my Dad's old motel now called the Budget Host and run by an Indian family) when I last visited. I asked the waitress who the local Congressman was from Owatonna, and her reply was, "Oh, I don't follow politics; you'd have to ask my husband, but ask me anything about Viking Quarterback Brett Favre--I can tell you all about his completed passes, his family life, and his contract terms!" Amazing to me when this woman's everyday life is inextricably tied more to Washington's decision-makers than to a football player, but then, what do I know? This weekend, MN's old Governor Jesse Ventura is at a book signing in Baltimore, and my husband's most prized possession is his signed football from former New York Jet's Quarterback and fellow Hungarian, Joe Namath. This month, we are reeling from the inept record keeping and sloppy work on the part of the Arlington Cemetery administrators. My father-in-law fled Communist rule and emigrated to the US following the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Ironically, he was gunned down in Washington, DC following a robbery attempt in 1969. That incident was the cover story of a Washington Post magazine article that same year. At the time, I was putting my husband through law school on my $4,500 a year teacher's salary so the funeral at a local Catholic cemetery was simple and without frills. But now that we return to Hungary on a regular basis, we thought it only fitting that Dad be returned to his original home and re-interred in the family plot in Budapest. However, our honorable intention cost us dearly. The entire fees have exceeded $13,171 for exhumation and cremation charges including basic services of the funeral director, courier fees, automotive equipment and mileage, a simple cremation urn (small wooden box), heavy pouch, cremation authorization, disposal of casket and liner since they cannot be reused, disposal of cemetery marker, and "miscellaneous expeses." And we had no identification of remains issues that would involve DNA testing or forensic science services. Certainly, Jessica Mitford's book,THE AMERICAN WAY OF DEATH, which exposed the predatory practices of the funeral industry back in 1963 hasn't reduced the funeral costs for American families over the last half century; if anything, they've exploded. And now that Arlington Cemetery is facing the issue of the exhumation and re-internment of almost 211 cases of mislabeled or unmarked graves, cremated remains mistakenly interred, and the possible problems of 6,000 graves out of the 300,000 buried in Arlington, I'm wondering about the massive costs to the American taxpayers of this travesty and ask if funeral homes such as the one we dealt with will cash in on this exhumation, dis-internment, identification, cremation, and re-internment tragedy. My husband will eventually be buried in Arlington, and this latest government scandal ony tarnishes this sacred and hallowed ground. On a happier note, I, with a girlfriend, attend Elderhostel classes each summer since it is a combination of vacation and learning experience. In July, we attended Berea College in Kentucky and learned about Appalachian Arts, Crafts, and Literature. I highly recommend Elderhostel, now called the Road Scholar, experiences to others who like to learn something along with taking reasonably priced vacations. Even though offerings include world-wide venues, we have remained state-side and explore the US with like-minded senior travelers. It's great to be waited on, bused to sites, listen to lectures from experts in the field, and eat and stay at some wonderful hotels. Last summer, we explored the bunker at the Greenbrier Hotel in WVA where Congress set up a miniature US Capitol inside a mountain during the Eisenhower administration should the US experience nurclear attack. It had its own water supply, waste treatment center, restaurant, hospital, dental office, command center for communication and phone lines to reach constituents. They do live well.

School Story:

I remember during the summer of the O.J. Simpson trial that we had a class reunion, and my talented cousin, Curt Bartsch, played O.J. to perfection while in costume. My other cousin, Karen Jenke, was a better piano player than I, and fabulous singers like Liz Pobanz liked to have her accompany them. I hated geometry and even had to go for after-school tutoring so I wouldn't flunk that class and chemistry as well. My biology partner in Miss Drum's class was a mischievous kid who used to pour acid on my textbook. He died in Viet Nam and I remember making a rubbing of his name for his parents years later at the Vietnam Memorial Wall here in Washington. I was a pretty lousy singer, but I loved singing alto in Roger Tenny's choir. I remember vividly the last song was always "Beautiful Savior" sung from the back of the auditorium after the choir marched down the aisle. That song always made my cry, but because Tenny attended St. Olaf, he carried that tradition from his college years over into our h.s. concerts. In our senior year, we even went on a "choir tour," which meant we gave a concert in Red Wing....what a thrill it was to ride the bus and perform elsewhere. I was always especially fond of our Indian mascot at football and basketball games and hated when they changed the OHS' logo in later years. My junior prom date was Nick Perry and my senior prom date was Dean Langer. I thought I looked fetching in my strapless yellow gown with its enormous skirt but I met my midnight curfew without complaint both times. I still remember the decorated high school gym and the parents who stood along the sides to watch us and take photos. My first date ever was with Dick Jacobi in the ninth grade who walked me to the movie "King Kong" at the State Theatre, but I enjoyed the Mounds bar and popcorn that he bought me the most. Kathleen and Katherine Kriesel were in my church's Sunday School class and their singing was only surpassed by their perfect grooming. To this day, I stand in awe of their perfectly coiffed hair and am only able to tell them apart because one of them has a little bend in her arm from a childhood accident. I still remember shopping at Mary Green's store on the way to see my grandmother in a home that was eventually bought and lived in by Liz Pobanz Lewis. For my 16th birthday, my dad purchased an old 1936 Hupmobile (if only I had that car today), and we used to decorate it and throw candy from it during homecoming parades. In my scrapbook, I still have the photo of Judy Brown as homecoming queen. I saved every ticket stub, every school musical program, each Thespian production playbill (I envied Mary Emmons because she was a great actress), all the yearbooks, and every report card. My husband kids me that when I take all my scrapbooks into the nursing home, I won't remember anyone in them, but I know I will because I treasure my years at Owatonna H.S. I became an English teacher because I loved Ms Helen Steppe (before she married John Schoen, the town's eye dr. and dad of Chucky Schoen) in her later years. A few years back, when Helen Steppe died, Dr. Schoen had her buried in her wedding dress. I can remember taking my dad to her funeral and her wake, and as we filed past her open coffin to pay our respects, I asked aloud why she had on her glasses since she could no longer see. My dad (then in his early '90's) replied, "Of course she would wear her glasses....her husband is an eye doctor!" We both laughed out loud and the others must have thought us rude, but it was the truth. Ora Dreher was our h.s. home economics teacher and I was always a flop at sewing, especially when we had to construct those horribly wide circle skirts. Ironically, after graduation, I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, and wouldn't you know that Ora Dreher became the Home Economics professor there too? I couldn't ever escape her disdain. The part-time job I had during high school was at Kottke's Jewelry Store, where I went each day after classes to polish silver, decorate the windows, clean the dishes, set out the bridal registration table, and sell the farmers and canning company employees gifts for their wives when they shopped on Christmas Eve. I loved that job because Bill Kottke sold tickets to any and all h.s. events, so everyone came into the store. When I was assigned to clean and organize the basement of that store, I hated it because it was dark, dusty, disorganized, and seemed like an archives of old stuff that never sold until we put it out for Crazy Days. That turn-of-a-century store still looks the same, and Bill Kottke still does watch and jewelry repairs in the back room. One of his employees was Bob Peterson, father of Jennie Peterson, both now deceased. Bob was a real auto buff who restored old racing cars and was also meticulous about cleaning watches in the days before watch batteries. I always knew then who was getting engaged because I watched Carl Kottke sell diamonds to nervous guys and their excited wives-to-be. After leaving Kottke's, I had to go home and help my parents with the motel business; first, the Modern Aire and then the Country Hearth. The cleaning lady I loved to work with was Liz Pobanz's mother who sadly, in her later years, suffered with Alzheimer's. We charged $7.50 to rent a room at the Modern Aire back then, and it was located across from Robert Jorgens' home, so I used to wave at him from the motel. Because of the motel's seasonal business, we never took a vacation, and I can remember my dad getting up in the middle of the night to wait on customers. The most horrific experience occurred following the Viet Nam War when a returning vet rented a room at the Country Hearth Motel and shot himself by holding a rifle between his legs and firing into his head. It took us almost a month to clean the room and renovate it. That was my first experience with witnessing a suicide even after my father did his best to shield the scene from our family. My mother grew to love the traveling salesmen that stayed regularly at the motel and she would bake them brownies and always inquire about their families. Many were employed by the Funk Seed Company, the Owatonna Tool Company, and the Canning Factory. When my parents retired, they built their home next to the creek and the public golf course. Two memorable events happened at subsequent h.s. reunions that I attended. On one, we toured the new high school and as we entered the library, Bill Pagel turned to me and said, "Library? All the time we attended this place, I never knew we had a library!" The other time was when we were all seated at the tables, and Punky Mullenmaster entered the room shouting, "Who the hell are all these old people?" Following the last reunion, I wrote a synopsis of all my classmates' accomplishments and submitted it to the MINNESOTA MEMORIES book compiled by Joan C. Graham of Albert Lea as the piece encapsulates our lives in the '60's. The recent death of Darlene Dostel hit me particularly hard because this beautiful, smiling classmate had begun to fail the last time I attended a reunion, but her loving, attentive husband Dale stood by her side and made me realize that indeed, high school romances can evolve into lifetimes of happiness. This perfect couple in the '60's personified Midwest values, Owatonna's finest qualities, and the love of two school mates that will endure forever. Last month, I attended the play, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, the story of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Roy Perkins on the one and only time they met together in Sun Sudios to jam for an hour. It was a magical night of memory for me because at 14 years of age, I begged my dad to take me to the Monterrey Supper Club to see Jerry Lee Lewis perform his first concert in MN when his hit "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" was number one. My Dad turned to me and asked, "What is this junk all about?" At 74, Jerry Lee still rocks!

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Aug 20, 2021 at 3:33 AM
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Jan 16, 2021 at 12:10 PM

Posted on: Jan 15, 2021 at 4:53 PM

What an illustrious career being both a lawyer and a Marine. I am proud of you. I live in DC where today, the city is totally shut down with troops and armament on every corner, museums and memorials closed, buses and Metro not running and no one on the streets. And we thought the Vet Nam protests were intense—little did we ever anticipate what we’ve experienced this last week. I bet you still look good in your uniform. My best wishes to you. Our class has much to be thankful for. Little did we realize in 1961 how lucky we all were. God bless.......Kathy Wilker Megyeri

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Aug 20, 2020 at 7:33 PM

Posted on: Aug 20, 2020 at 3:33 AM

Aug 20, 2019 at 3:33 AM
Aug 20, 2018 at 3:33 AM
Oct 18, 2017 at 7:15 PM

Of course I remember you Dixie because I always loved your name and wondered how your mother decided on it. Nowadays, even “Dixie cups” are under attack so be grateful you have a name that no one is lucky to have anymore. Congrats on your long married life and especially on a most valued nursing career for you were the ultimate caregiver. Don’t let your husband pass away because there are sooooo many old geezers who would love to get you. Remember they all want your purse, a nurse or they are ready for the hearse themselves. You were so privileged to stay in MN where people are so wonderful, the lifestyle so healthy and you still can hold those Midwestern values of home, family and God. You are blessed as are we who knew you.

Aug 20, 2017 at 3:33 AM
Aug 20, 2016 at 3:33 AM
Jan 17, 2016 at 8:45 AM

I am proud that Curt is my cousin. His home atop the hills of Laguna Beach is right out of a Hollywood movie. Visit him if you can as he personifies the glamor, looks and attitude of a CA guy with Modwestern vales and his wife is a gem!

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Aug 21, 2015 at 7:55 AM
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Aug 21, 2015 at 7:55 AM

Posted on: Aug 20, 2015 at 3:35 AM