Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Hungarian toolmaker fled communists in '56

TEMPERANCE - Jozsef G. Polhe, 81, who with his wife, Marianne, escaped their native Hungary when Soviet troops crushed the 1956 revolution there and later opened a machine tooling business in West Toledo, died from complications of congestive heart failure and kidney failure Monday in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

He was president of Polhe Tool Inc. and, until he went into the hospital earlier this month, he came in every workday, even after dialysis.

"He'd walk around the shop and make sure that everything was going to his liking," said his son, Joseph, the firm's vice president. "He still made a lot of the daily decisions. He was always a worker. He told me that when he was young, he always wanted to be a toolmaker. He loved his trade. It was his job, his hobby, his love."

The shop produces precision machine tooling for manufacturing firms.

When Mr. Polhe started the firm, he hired everyone out of high school and trained them. He was proud that at least two workers he trained went on to start their own shops.

"One of his joys was in passing along his knowledge," his son said.

Mr. Polhe was born in Hungary to a poor family. He had an aptitude for machines and figuring things out.

"At that time in Europe, toolmaker was a prestigious trade," his son said. "If you were a toolmaker, you were a respected man and made a good living."

Mr. Polhe owned a machine shop in Budapest, but the government took it over in 1952. He later opened another shop, with Swedish ownership, and was at work in October, 1956, when the revolution began against the Communist government.

He was a supporter of the cause, and he learned from the machine shop's janitor that the secret police were looking for him.

"My father was very patriotic about Hungary, and he wasn't one to keep quiet about his hate of the Communists," his son said.

By December, 1956, Russian troops were guarding the border. Mr. Polhe and his wife escaped with the help of a border-zone farmer who guided refugees into Austria.

The couple left their daughter, Marianne, with Mrs. Polhe's mother. The girl, accompanied by her grandmother, was able to come to the United States in 1965 to be with her parents.

Mr. Polhe would speak a bit about the 1950s in Hungary, said his son, who was born in the United States.

"But there were other times he tended to clam up," his son said. "Seeing people around you die trying to escape wasn't something he wanted to relive a lot."

The Pohles first settled in Wheeling, W.Va., where he worked in a brake engineering firm. His base of operations became Toledo when a patent involving brake shoes was sold to a division of Sheller-Globe Corp. He was a shop foreman for City Auto Stamping Co. and worked later for two tool and die shops.

The family moved to Temperance in 1963.

Surviving are his wife of more than 50 years, Marianne; daughters, Marianne Gill and Katherina Arble; son, Joseph Polhe; stepbrother, Simon Maszaros; six grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.

The body will be in the Michael W. Pawlak Mortuary, Temperance, after 2 p.m. today, with a recitation of the Rosary at 7 tonight. The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the American Diabetes Association or the American Heart Association.

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