Obituary of John J. Rakos
John J. Rakos passed away at St. Clare's Hospital in Denville, NJ on October 29, 2018, at the age of 89.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, John was educated and lived there with his wife, Eva, and their son John and daughter Maria until the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. The family escaped into Austria after the Russian invasion that year. In Vienna, he worked at the American Embassy as a translator, which helped secure passage for him and his family to the United States in 1957.
After arriving in the United States, he lived his whole life in Dover and Parsippany, NJ. He was employed and became a partner at Robert Catlin & Associates where he worked as a planning consultant for over 20 towns in New Jersey before retiring in 1998. He was a member of the A.I.C.P. (American Institute of City Planners), and loved to spend time drawing, making his own greeting cards, and keeping current on world events.
John was predeceased by his daughter Maria E. Rakos in July of 2018.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Eva (Nagy) Rakos. He is also survived by his son John and John's wife Jennie and his granddaughter Chloe.
A memorial of John's life will take place at a later date.
The following is a story John told in an interview with Warren Singer for the Parsippany-Troy Hills homeowner's association.
Darkness Along the Danube
(from an interview with John Rakos, as retold by Warren Singer)
Although my family was Catholic, the fascist Hungarian government, in concert with the Nazi regime (1930's), designated us as "lesser" human beings because one of my grandparents was Jewish. The nightmarish turn of events crashed down on my family when "they came to take us away" to the ghetto or perhaps even a forced labor camp. My parents, fearing for my life, hid me in a secluded closet, and warned me to stay hidden until all was quiet. I was only fifteen! For the first time in my life I felt utterly alone. It all seemed so surreal. But the horror was just beginning. Eventually, through night's cover, I stealthily made my way to the home of long-time family friends. It was through their intervention that I was given shelter in a single dingy room, with another young man, in a run-down apartment building. Hoping to be among the first in line, on one occasion at 3:00 AM I queued up to a seemingly unending parade of hungry people, in the hope of buying a mere loaf of bread. Sadly, my early start was in vain.
My days were punctuated by fear of being discovered. Despite my efforts to move in the shadows I was eventually arrested, interrogated, and beaten. I was only a child. Whom did I betray? What crime did I commit that warranted such brutality? In time, I managed to escape my captors through a solitary bathroom window, and sought refuge in the apartment building basement with at least a hundred others. It was there that we slept crammed together in the hope of finding protection from the ever-constant shelling. One night, friends secreted me behind a pile of musty firewood, protecting me from
patrols who came in search of Jews. To my amazement, no one divulged my sanctuary. We endured the daily blasts of thundering bombs and a firestorm of devastation.
In 1944, the Russian army surrounded and then vanquished the fascists. My beautiful Budapest, the city by the Danube, was in ruins. Miraculously, arising from the wreckage, I found a measure of happiness; I was reunited with my parents. We found our way to our once lovely, stately home, now war-ravaged. I finished my education and became an architect, and months later, good fortune smiled on me again; I met and married Eva. We started a family and had two darling children, John and Maria.
In spite of Russian ruthlessness, we survived. In 1956, the Hungarian people revolted against their Soviet overlords. Around this time, the borders between Hungary and Austria were opened, albeit temporarily. We were among thousands who sought freedom. Eva, John, and I trekked by foot to Austria, freedom's frontier leading to the west. Maria was kept behind in our home, in the care of her loving grandmother, by then a widow. My daughter would later join us at a much safer time.
I carried John on my back mile after mile, sometimes in ankle-deep mud. When searching soldiers fired illumination shells into the sky, we sought refuge in the camouflaging mud fields. As we laid there one night, my young son turned his mud-splashed face to mine, somberly asking, "Are we dead now?"
We are very much alive, and I thank God for keeping my wife and two children safe together, and granting us this golden gift called America!
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