Geza Vermes

Obituary of Geza Vermes

Géza Vermes (96) died peacefully on February 18 in San Francisco, CA.  Born in Budapest, he survived World War II despite induction into the Hungarian forced labor system under the Fascist Arrow Cross regime. Tragically, both he and his wife-to-be, Klara, lost their respective fathers due to typhus contracted while in Nazi concentration camps. Despite these devastating losses, the couple married in 1950 and settled into domestic life in the post-War capital.


In 1956, as the Soviets marched in to crush the Hungarian Revolution, Géza, a Hungarian patriot and vocal anti-Communist, accepted his now-pregnant wife’s pressure to flee over the Austrian border and into the unknown. Fortunately, the US opened an immigration quota expressly for Hungarian refugees, and the couple quickly entered the US by military transport. The young family received a son John in Boston. They soon moved to Milwaukee before putting down long-term roots in Philadelphia, where they raised their two children, John and his younger sister Ann.


Rigorously trained in Budapest as a mechanical engineer, Géza was known for his deep grasp of thermodynamics and combustion design. He was universally appreciated for his exceptional knowledge of his chosen field and proved very valuable in technology transfer from research to development. After retirement, he continued to consult until well into his 80s.


Unlike many modern engineers, Géza was a true intellectual. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of history, and a great facility for languages, including Latin, Greek, German, French, and Hebrew.  All who knew him regarded him as a gentleman in the Middle European style, and a truly dedicated family man.  His devotion to his wife was total. They were married for nearly 50 years until Klara’s death in 1999. He was a brilliant amateur teacher of subjects that were a priority of his youth. This facility greatly benefited his children, who went on to receive professional degrees. Géza was also the deeply respected and beloved brother of his two younger siblings, Clara Shelley of Sydney, Australia and Professor Robert Vermes of Montreal, Canada, as well as their spouses, George and Chayah.


All who knew him will miss his rigorous reasoning, sly but gentle teasing, his zest for matters of the mind, and the subtle but unwavering manner in which he always stood for what he believed in.


Géza spent the last two decades of his long life near his children, first in Connecticut close to Ann and then in the San Francisco area, near John.


Donations may be made in Géza’s memory to The Jewish Home & Senior Living Foundation, 302 Silver Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94112 or to the ASME Foundation, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 510, Washington, DC 20036.