Jerry's View: Rudy Bundas was my friend
For more years than I can remember, Rudy Bundas was a friend of mine.
Rudy was a talker, possibly the longest talker I knew. He often would visit Elsbeth and me at our place. Once, while out shopping I waited with Rudy in the car while she went in for some things. I listened and listened to Rudy. The car was parked in a shadowy area near some trees. It was dark when Beth emerged from the store. I'd fallen asleep as Rudy went on...and on. Beth was furious at me for not being at the storefront to pick her up. I had to say Rudy made me do it, but I sure loved that guy.
Many may know that Rudy was a first-rate water color artist. Many also knew him as a competitive cribbage player and ardent golfer. I knew him as a close friend who shared his story of the loss of an eye as a child and his abandonment by his own mother in Salank, Hungary.
She left for the U.S. when he was three. It was 1914. The Great War was taking its toll early.
How did a kid with one eye and a bunch of bad luck end up in Seattle where he brought his unbelievable artistic talent?
I can paint a kitchen wall. That is the extent of my talent. Rudy was different. He struggled and learned from it. He learned so well he taught at Seattle University for many years. He learned it so well he helped form the Society of Professional Graphic Artists (SPGA) in 1955.
I met Rudy by chance at Rainier Golf & Country Club. We ended up in the same foursome. Rudy was the slowest player on the planet. I suspect he painted with the same deliberate style. I've seen cobwebs formed between his knees when he was over a putt. While he never gave me the same consideration at a cribbage game, "hurry up,...hurry up, are you just learning?", he'd say when we played together.
He was the runt of the litter (he had an older brother). I affectionately called him a runt. He was 5 ft nuthin with a heart of gold.
Born in Hungary in 1911 Bundas was raised by his aunt and grandmother for a short time while his dad was off with the army.
There had been an explosion. Rudy was hit in the right eye. Neighbors had their hands full coping with other issues of survival but they shamed Rudy's aunt to get him some help. Rudy was taken nearly 200 miles to the big city (Budapest). Here he tells Jerry about the incident.
Rudy Bundas penned this letter to Jerry Robinson
on July 15, 1998 of his life in Hungary beginning circa 1914.
When they left me I was scared and bewildered. Nobody came when I cried and called for them. Home-I wandered around the street near our house in Salank, Hungary, crying, looking for somebody who knew me. I was in shock. I went next door to the neighbors. I hid in the closet and cried. I was about three- I didn't know what happened.
My right eye hurt very much. The neighbors shamed the relatives to take me to the eye doctor in Budapest. They took me on the big train to the big city. My right eye was enuncleated (Enucleation is removal of the eye, leaving the eye muscles and remaining orbital contents intact.). The doctor cut the eye out.
From my aunt I learned that mother was in the United States of America. She left me with my paternal grandmother who died very soon after mother left. I don't remember that grandmother.
Both of my grandfathers had died long before. My uncle, mothers' brother, had three children of his own and wasn't interested in having me around.
Father came home on a short leave. He was disappointed and angry and when he saw me-his one eyed little son - but I felt that he liked me because he brought me a sweet roll from some far away town. Very soon he had to go back to the war. He was wounded and died shortly after he came home to our cold empty house-and the two young boys.
It was after the eye-surgery that I became aware that I had a brother. Joe was about two years older than I. He had already started school. We moved in with aunt Julia, a widow, whose daughter Rozalia, a lively teenager, and Joe would sometimes make fun of me and my one eye. But I thought that they liked me any how. Rozalia's mother took Joe and me in for that fall, winter and spring.
The following summer we moved in with my maternal grandmother Major, her son, uncle Laszlo, his wife and family. About this time Rozalia left for the United States where she had relatives.
Ed. note:Rudy came to America shortly after this to attend school in Ohio.He practice art becoming well known in Cleveland art circles.
I lost track of her for many years-over ten years-when I received a traveling scholarship from the Cleveland Art Institute and visited with her sister and brother-in-law in Salank- then part of Austria-Hungary. They filled me in and gave me Rozalia’s address in California.
Much later, after WWII-I was separated from the army at Ft Lewis, Washington in 1945. I found Rozalia and Otis and later met her family in California. We talked about our relatives and how we
escaped two wars.
Grandmother Major liked all the children pretty much alike. She was the only one I remembered through the years. And the one I most looked forward to seeing again when I returned to Salank- to show and tell her what that little one-eyed kid had accomplished in the United States since leaving Salank. But I was very disappointed. Grandmother had grown quite old. Her eye-sight was very poor, and she wasn't sure which one or who I was. Ed note: Rudy died in 2003 leaving a donation to the Rainier Golf Club.
In 2006 the Club dedicated the Rudy Bundas Plaza in his memory.