By Margot Griffiths
After a career spanning half a century and half the globe, Gaspar Schulek chose the quiet beauty of Point Roberts after retiring in 1998.
His life began in Budapest, where Gaspar, one of eight children, was born to an artist mother and a Lutheran priest father. Most auspicious of his ancestors was his grandfather, an architect who designed Budapest’s most famous cathedral. When traveling in Hungary, I was awed by this cathedral and so was interested to learn what the grandson of this famous architect had done with his life.
Gaspar was born just before the outbreak of World War II. The borders of Hungary shifted in the aftermath, and as a seven-year-old, Gaspar had to leave his home, taking only what he and his family could carry. Yet another face of Hitler’s brutal ambition.
Gaspar was a gifted child. Music was a large part of his life but he was just as talented athletically. As a young adult, he entered the University of Budapest, studying electrical engineering. Again, history intervened with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when the population revolted against Soviet policies. Gaspar again fled, this time to Belgium where he finished university. But as the Belgian Congo gained its freedom, many Belgians returned to their homeland from Africa; there were few jobs for foreigners like Gaspar, so he immigrated to Vancouver, where his aunt lived. He chose Canada because he spoke French. But to his surprise, no one spoke French in Vancouver. Armed with a good ear, Gaspar quickly learned English, one of nine languages he speaks.
His career in Canada was in telecommunications, installing microwave systems for long distance telephones. He worked for a company in Vancouver that had contracts with BC Hydro, where my electrical engineer father was working at the time, an instance of the seemingly inevitable Point Roberts connections. He also worked in Montreal, where dams along the St. Lawrence River were harnessing power. Gaspar worked on microwave systems that protected high-voltage wires.
The second half of Gaspar’s career was spent in cellular telephone systems, and for a time he was the only radio engineer working on huge transmission towers. He moved to San Francisco and worked for what is now Verizon, creating cellular systems in America’s largest cities. During his career, Gaspar worked around the globe, including Iran and Spain, always adding to his impressive list of languages. And he always found time to travel for pleasure while on his foreign assignments.
As a child, Gaspar’s wife once had a “little spot” in Point Roberts, and so they settled here in retirement. He enjoys the quiet pace, and the sea and the forests. With European sensibilities, he speaks with respect for all of nature. And there’s enough space around him, so he says he is “not afraid to play loud!” For that is what Gaspar’s life-long passion has been. Playing music.
His home resembles a practice room at the symphony with a harpsicord and a clavichord – both of which he built himself – as well as a grand piano, a tuba and a 23-rank pipe organ. Yes, there are over 1000 pipes in Gaspar’s living room. He enjoys playing the organ in Trinity Church and his expertise was critical in the installation of that pipe organ. He also plays the tuba in a wind instrument group in Ladner. And if you think this accomplished man is solely cerebral, back in his younger days he won a gold medal at the Canada Games for fencing. Today he gets his exercise with the Point Roberts Wackie Walkers.
Gaspar’s greatest enjoyment today comes from visits with his three children and 10 grandchildren, all of whom have a copy of the impressive book about Gaspar’s grandfather’s cathedral. Two remarkable men leaving indelible legacies.