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News > Alumni In Memoriam > Vale Zoltan (John) Tar (12/03/1941-09/01/2023)

Vale Zoltan (John) Tar (12/03/1941-09/01/2023)

Johnsman Peter Helm (SJC 1961-1965) pays tribute to his longtime friend Zoltan (John) Tar (SJC 1960-1964).
L-R: John Ryan, Zolt Tar, Peter Helm, John Lyons
L-R: John Ryan, Zolt Tar, Peter Helm, John Lyons

Zoltan (also known as John) died on January 6 2023 in his 82nd year having lived an extremely  full and interesting life.  He truly achieved the meaning of Life: ‘Before you Die – Live’.

Zolt Tar was born in Reghin, a small town in Transylvania, then part of Hungary, now in Romania on March 12, 1941 being the firstborn child of Eva Tar (nee Schuller) and Andrew Tar. Subsequently two sisters (Eva and Ildiko) were born in Hungary and a third, Judy in Australia. Following the war, the family decided to make a new home away from war-ravaged Europe.  

The country selected was A for Argentina but when the family prepared to board the ship, Zolt came down with measles, so the immigration to Argentina was cancelled. An immigration rescheduling took place and, by chance, this time the destination was A for Australia.  The Tar family always believed this was a great stroke of good fortune with Australia an ideal country to start a new life. So, in 1952 the Tar family arrived in Melbourne, and were housed in the migrant barracks in Bonegilla, not far from Albury/Wodonga in regional Victoria. Zolt’s father was a lawyer, but his qualifications were not recognised in Australia. Migrants were needed to paint the train stations, so that’s what he did. Subsequently he moved into a role with the accounts department of Mates, a big department store in 1950s Albury. Eventually the family were able to buy a house in Lavington and then on Schubach St in East Albury where Zoltan’s mother Eva, a pianist and piano teacher lived until 2020 when she died at the age of 99.

Zolt went to St Brigid’s primary school and Aquinas College secondary school for his formative education. He was a gifted student, was dux of Aquinas College, won a Commonwealth Scholarship and commenced an Engineering course at the University of Sydney in 1960. He was popular and involved in all related school activities including debating and sporting competitions, especially middle distance running. He was also a Prefect of the school. Aquinas College was an all-boys school but there was still liaison with the nearby all-girls school, St Joseph’s. Following retirement, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the past student reunions between Aquinas and St Joseph’s which took place over the last 30 years. Lifelong friendships were formed with Kate Harper (Ratcliff), Marion Daniells (Cole), Ann Brennan (Hunt), Peter Helm, Bob Low and Tony Fallet.

Following his secondary schooling the next move was to Sydney University. A decision was made to take up student accommodation at St John’s College on campus to embark on his engineering degree. He arrived at John’s in February 1960 after completing his Leaving Certificate. He entered John’s along with 30-odd other freshers across all University disciplines - law, medicine, engineering, etc.  It was there that he met fellow engineering students who were to become long-term friends including John Lyons and Don Katauskas. At University he was a dedicated student and achieved credit standard results; consequently he was given the opportunity to do an additional Science degree in conjunction with his prime Engineering degree. He accepted this offer and subsequently graduated in both Science (1962) and Electrical Engineering (1964).

Following graduation, Zolt rented accommodation with other Johnsmen at a number of  places in Sydney. Getting suitable accommodation was always a challenge but not so for the creative and determined Zolt. He put an ad in the Herald which stated, “2 hardworking and respectable students looking for suitable accommodation”. The only response received was from a retired Colonel who was seeking someone to look after his property whilst he visited relatives in Tasmania. The property was located at the Esplanade in Elizabeth Bay which was harborside and next to the famous mansion Boomerang.  It was a small, converted cottage that used to be the stables of a mansion located at the top of the cliff above the stables. Needless to say this was ideal and was the envy of friends; it became a popular location for many parties.

In 1965, upon completing his tertiary qualifications, Zolt successfully applied for a graduate engineering position at OTC (Overseas Telecommunications Commission). This was an independent government telecommunications facility dedicated to providing Australian communication links with overseas countries. But despite starting work, his thirst for education was ongoing and, along with another fellow Johnsman Terry Golding (Science & Law), he commenced a part time evening Arts course at Sydney University majoring in English. Not surprisingly he won the Evening Student English prize against stiff competition. However, his career had now become the prime focus and OTC acted as the stepping stone for the opportunity to take up a role at the United Nations Telecommunications Authority in Geneva. Zolt went to Geneva in 1981 and worked there for over 23 years producing international telecommunications standards and protocols that shaped the world of today where communicating to anyone/anywhere in the world is an expected way of life.

It was at OTC in Sydney that he met his wife Regina, and they married in Stockholm where they both worked for LM Ericsson. In 1971 their daughter Ilona was born, and a grandson Zygie was born in 2016. His family were near and dear to him with Ilona doing an amazing job in caring for her parents over the last few difficult years.

Following retirement from the UN, Zolt and Regina decided to make Australia their home. So in 2001 Zolt retired and he and Regina returned to Sydney and initially lived in their family home in Turramurra. Then they downsized to a smaller townhouse in Westleigh. It was in the first year of his retirement (2001) that Zolt was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), an aggressive and debilitating form of cancer. He went through a series of medical treatments and, quite remarkably, astounded the medical fraternity by surviving against the odds, largely thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his youngest sister, Judy.    

For Zolt, retirement also meant meeting and discussing topics of general interest with like-minded people. Hence Zolt became actively involved in attending the monthly Sydney-based Literary Lunch events where he made many new friends. The Literary Lunches was a concept conceived by John Ryan, Bernie O’Donnell, Michael Green and Tony Baine. Around 30-50 professional/academic attendees  met monthly at a restaurant in Newtown. The format entailed a convivial lunch discussing topics of the day followed by a  guest speaker with a literary background. This event became a source of great enjoyment and satisfaction to Zolt. He and Regina always attended every lunch, even travelling up from Bowral.

In 2014 John and Regina moved to Bowral and then a decision was made to make their final retirement in Albury so they could be close to family in familiar surroundings.  They bought a house in Albury and were all set to leave Sydney when Zolt had a fall and hit his head. He was airlifted to Albury, and after 3 months in rehab, he chose to join Regina in an aged care facility where they lived for 2 years. His cognition impaired due to the brain injury he sustained made it very difficult for him to care for Regina in their own home. Sadly, their daughter Ilona and her husband Ben moved them and cared for them in their own home in Albury for only 3 months, before Zolt ended up in hospital due to exhaustion and dehydration. This saw them both move permanently into aged care. In November 2022 they returned to Sydney to take up residency at an excellent aged care facility in Drummoyne so that they would be close to their daughter, grandson, family and friends. Unfortunately, his health had rapidly deteriorated after a second bout of Covid and on the 6th of January he died aged 81 years.

Zolt was a good man, intelligent and well-read who had a belief in high values. He had achieved many things in his life, developed many friendships, was a devoted soul mate to Regina and a proud father and grandfather.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Vale Zolt.

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