My family was absolutely stunned to hear the sudden news that our former foreign exchange student passed away earlier this month. Gusztav Matolcsy from Kaposvar, Hungary, was just 23.
“Guszti” was visiting his brother Andras in Barcelona, Spain on a well-planned trip when he fell ill, was hospitalized and never made it out. Earlier Andras phoned to inform us Guszti had contracted meningitis, was admitted and promised updates.
Shortly thereafter, my wife noticed Guszti’s Facebook page abuzz with Hungarian messages of “rest in calm.” We feared the worst but hoped for the best that somehow our translation was off. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as Andras called the next day with the sad news. Apparently, doctors couldn’t identify what strain (of meningitis) Guszti had and couldn’t save him.
Guszti attended Ponderosa High where he “graduated” with the class of 2005. He played varsity tennis and soccer, in which he scored five goals — four in league play. He learned how to play tennis after several lessons here in the states with a racquet we gave him for Christmas. Guszti was also good at ping-pong — bringing a slightly different style to the table — and really took pride in honing his hoops skills. Though basketball wasn’t his country’s sport, he was infatuated with the NBA and was determined in countless 2-on-2 games in our driveway to prove Central Europeans could be just as good.
Guszti loved America. Growing up in Kaposvar, Guszti, aside from family vacations to Lake Balaton in the Transdanubian Region of Hungary, occasional ski trips to Austria and I think he mentioned being to England once, hadn’t been too many other places. He understood that if he did well in school he’d qualify for the exchange student program and eventually get to the USA, his top target.
Thus, our paths crossed.
We threw our hat into the ring very late and agreed to be a host family upon hearing Guszti still needed a family. We are a baseball family and while his application listed that as his main sport, it was clear in reading his biography that he liked basketball. Guszti was originally placed with a Del Oro family, hard-core Kings’ fans who couldn’t come to grips with Guszti’s passion for the Lakers. He was cast back in the pool without a family as the start of school was fast approaching.
It was exciting picking Guszti up at the Oakland Airport. His first encounter with his new “brothers” and “cousins” was at a beach house as his arrival fell smack dab in the middle of our family vacation. After four days at the beach, Guszti, somewhat of an urban kid, probably took a double-take upon seeing downtown Shingle Springs for the first time.
But he adjusted well and made many, many friends at “the Pondo” his name for Ponderosa.
During his time here he saw Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, Capital Records, Hawaii, Yosemite, gold-panning in Coloma, Shaquille O’Neal, the Kings, the Warriors, the Harlem Globetrotters, Herman’s Hermits (a band his dad liked) at the El Dorado County Fair, a Beatle and San Francisco, the city where his parents spent their honeymoon. Guszti, who was in his third year of law school when he took ill, wanted to come back to see it all again.
It’s hard to comprehend why someone so young and full of life is suddenly gone. Guszti, we value having known you and you’ll be missed by your “American family,” friends and all those you touched in your brief time here.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May you rest in peace.