Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Viktor De Jeney, 93, Revolutionary, Dies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Viktor De Jeney, 93, Revolutionary, Dies

Article excerpt

No one will ever know whether Viktor De Jeney died as he tried to carve a violin as perfect as a Stradivarius.

But at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Dec. 18, 1996), when Des Peres firefighters entered his charred living room, they found one of the 93-year-old violinmaker's instruments and the lacquer he used to paint them beside his body. The firefighters speculate that a spark, perhaps from the heating lamp he used to dry the violins, ignited the lacquer and caused the fire at 919 Nana Lane, Des Peres.

Mr. De Jeney was born Dec. 26, 1902, in Maros Vararhely, Transylvania. At age 16, when a spinal injury made walking difficult, he gave up plans for a military career. He became a painter, a sculptor, a violin maker and a revolutionary.

In 1956, Mr. De Jeney, then 53, was one of the men who started the Hungarian uprising against the Communist government. Barehanded, they tried to topple a 25-foot statue of Stalin in Budapest's Stalin Square. Soon they were joined by thousands of armed protestors.

Ten days later, Russian tanks crushed the uprising. Mr. De Jeney, limping, became one of the 200,000 Hungarians who trudged 30 miles through snow-mucked fields to Austria and freedom.

In May 1957, through the National Council of Churches and the Webster Groves Presbyterian Church Men's Council, Mr. De Jeney settled in St. Louis. He knew no one here, but he loved to fish, and both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers held the promise of catfish.

In the next five months, he produced 16 portraits in oil and pastels. Within a year he mounted a one-man show of about 30 portraits. People say his portraits were so natural they seemed alive.

"I have never known a person with his drive and will," said his nephew's wife, Carol Jeney of Ladue.

He never considered retiring. …

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