Dr Mihaly (Mike) Vagyi was born on 30 March 1929 in Vasarosdombo, Hungary, and passed away on 2 April 2015 at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. When the student-led Hungarian uprising of 1956 was crushed by Soviet tanks entering Budapest in November of that year, Dr Vagyi became a refugee and fled Hungary, arriving first in France and then immigrating to Canada. Dr Vagyi arrived in Halifax on 14 January 1957 and made his way to Montreal and then Vancouver and Penticton. The early years were difficult for Dr Vagyi due to his lack of fluency in English. He worked a variety of jobs in order to gain a command of the language, the last being as an orderly at the Penticton Hospital. With sufficient English and Canadian citizenship in hand, Dr Vagyi moved to Chase and assumed Dr Mike Trelor’s practice.
For over 40 years Dr Vagyi was the quintessential rural family doctor, routinely working 12-hour days, 7 days a week. During that time he delivered over 2500 babies and attended innumerable house calls. In the 1960s Chase still had a switchboard with a live operator, and Dr Vagyi would keep the operator apprised of his location so that he could be located if required.
Chase is largely a rural community with a farming and logging backbone. Consequently, Dr Vagyi’s services were frequently needed to manage injuries, and it was not unheard of for him to be called out to attend patients five or six times in a single night.
Royal Inland Hospital is located in Kamloops 55 kilometres from Chase. Dr Vagyi would make the trip daily to check on his inpatients, as well as to ferry patients back and forth to Kamloops Hospital if they required laboratory work or X-rays.
A devoted physician and active community member, Dr Vagyi gave willingly to Chase. While he had no children of his own, he loved children and his office was adorned with the many photos of those he had delivered. Each Halloween he made a point of giving out a generous treat package, which allowed him to visit with hundreds of trick-or-treaters each year.
A measure of the respect and love the community felt for him was displayed by the memorial service organized by three local First Nations Bands—Adams Lake, Little Shuswap, and Neskonlith—and the Village of Chase. One in five of the 2500 or so Chase residents attended the memorial service and shared their many memories of Dr Vagyi’s more than 4 decades of service as their devoted physician, and following the service many individuals were able to collect their baby pictures.
No memory of Dr Vagyi would be complete without mentioning his love for the lottery. He was a devout participant in Lotto 649 and had three significant wins, the most recent of which was approximately $1.5 million in 1995.
As the face of medicine understandably changes, it is with great sadness that we witness the passing of such a devoted family physician.
—Robert N. Baker, MD
—Nadeen Gavelin, RN
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