Dr. Balázs Seléndy, 83 September 5, 1937 – July 5, 2021

In Memoriam

Dr. Balázs Seléndy, 83

September 5, 1937 – July 5, 2021

Dr. Balázs Seléndy, born in Budapest, Hungary, to Jenö Seléndy and Irén Kosma on September 5, 1937, passed away peacefully in his home on July 5, 2021, after an intense and devoted life of public service and study in three countries. He spent his last years in the pursuit of lifelong passions, including for reflection, writing, reading, karate, and photography, living quietly with his beloved Patricia Gambitta in Fly Creek, New York.

Balázs grew up in war-torn Hungary, spending his childhood in the midst of the deprivations of World War II. With Calvinist and Catholic parents but a Jewish paternal grandfather, his family stayed beyond reach of the Nazis due in part to his father’s military service to the Austro-Hungarian empire during WWI.

In October and November 1956, as a young medical student, Balázs fought in the spontaneous, student-led revolution against the Soviet-backed Hungarian People’s Republic. After a large Soviet force invaded Hungary and destroyed the uprising, rounding up revolutionaries, Balázs was forced to leave his family, including younger brother Szabolcs, and to emigrate with other Hungarian refugees under cover of darkness across the border to Austria. His father gave him a treasured Leica camera to pay for his crossing, but, after Balázs helped a fellow refugee escape, she paid for him, and he photographed with the Leica for decades.

After being resettled from Austria to Belgium, Balázs learned French in a matter of months, and earned admission into medical school at the prestigious Université Catholique de Louvain, where he trained as an obstetrician/gynecologist. At the same time, he built upon a childhood love of American literature by learning English. Toward the end of his studies, he fell in love and, in 1963, married Francoise Jadot, who died tragically of lymphoma within the following year.

In July of 1964, Dr. Seléndy emigrated to the United States. After an internship in Philadelphia, he became a resident at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.  There he met medical researcher Janine Irvine, who became his wife for six years, and with whom he had children Philippe (1966) and Bela (1968).

During the Vietnam War, from 1968-1970, Dr. Seléndy served as a medical officer for the U.S. Army with the rank of major. He became an American citizen in 1970.

That year, Dr. Seléndy took up his post as an Ob/Gyn at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with Columbia University. In addition to delivering thousands of children and developing a speciality in micro-surgery, Dr. Seléndy became a champion of the midwife program. In 1978, Balázs married Mildred Mook, with whom he had Maude (1980) and raised his stepson Zachary.

Dr. Seléndy served at Bassett for nearly 40 years, long past retirement age, out of love for the profession, for teaching, and for his community.

A lifelong and gifted critical thinker, Balázs was a voracious reader in every subject matter, particularly in literature, science, history and philosophy. He wrote volumes of poetry in three languages, labored over poignant English translations of Miklós Radnóti, and published books of verse in Hungarian. He also was a passionate and skilled photographer and carpenter.

In 2002, Balázs met his long-term partner and closest friend, the fiercely independent Pat Gambitta, then the Director of Community Services for Otsego County.

At the age of 65, Balázs first took up motorcycling, with delight. Seven years later, he was struck broadside by a car at 60 mph. After his bike flew into the air and spun around three times, he was able to walk away from the accident with broken ribs and minor injuries. From then on, he marked the date of the accident each year as a sign of gratitude for the additional life he was given.

Dr. Seléndy practiced karate for decades, and became a senior black belt under Hidy Ochiai, ultimately wearing an oxygen tank during kata as he struggled with late-stage emphysema. He attended classes at the dojo through 2019, at the age of 82, and then continued his practice at home until his recent illness.

Balázs treated everyone equally, with kindness and generosity, and befriended people from all walks of life, including from the medical profession, the dojo, and his literary, photography, and motorcycle circles, and he loved his upstate New York community for more than fifty years.

Balázs is survived by loving children and grandchildren: Philippe and his wife Jennifer, and their children Maximilian and Liam; Bela and his wife Helen, and children Nicolas and Linnea; Maude and her husband Terry, and their children Luke and Leilani; Zachary and his wife Carmen, and children Karina and Avery.

A memorial service to celebrate Balázs’ extraordinary life will be held in the spring of 2022 in Fly Creek.


4 thoughts on “Dr. Balázs Seléndy, 83 September 5, 1937 – July 5, 2021

  1. florence loomis

    he was my gyn for many years i was sad when he left but glad for him. what an interesting life he lived

  2. Karen Miritello

    Dr. Selendy had a very particular presence that made him memorable to me, even though I only knew him a little bit as a customer at our family business. Inquisitive, intelligent, and so very gracious. What I’ll never forget was telling Pat about a trip I had planned to Budapest and later getting a call from Dr. Selendy with the best advice on where to go and what to do in his beloved his hometown. I felt so honored that he took the time to do that- and it seemed so characteristic of his uniquely generous spirit. He was a real gift to this area and his legacy will not soon be forgotten

  3. Tamás Pócs

    We knew each other since our childhood, as Balázs was the son of my mother’s younger sister. We meet in late 1956 in Budapest before he was forced to escape from the country, as I lived after our marriage with my wife in the home of his mother. We liked each other with Balázs very much and after a long break we met again in Belgium when he was studying at the Leuven University. He was always very kind to me and when departed Belgium, presented me with my first professional tourist equipment, which that time was not available in Hungary. After the years of political changes in my country we could meet several times. We kept continuous contact through the net and he always presented me his new literary products (poems, autobiography) and I tried to supply him with writings of late or present Hungarian authors. He regularly paid my membership fee in the American Bryological Society, but overall these we kept an intense spiritual contact on different issues, including everyday life, family affairs and politics. He was a very warm-hearted and sensitive person who deserved love from all his relatives and friends.

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