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Vilmos Friedmann

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Vilmos (William) Friedman, my great grandfather;
Born in Körmös, in the province of Liptó (Liptó County was an administrative county (comitatus) of the Kingdom of Hungary. Its territory is now in northern Slovakia) in 1872. He went to school in Rózahegy. He learned the trade of butcher in Rimaszombat, in the province of Gömör. (Rimavská Sobota is a town in southern Slovakia, in the Banská Bystrica Region, on the Rimava river. It has approximately 24,000 inhabitants)

Vilmos traveled all over Austria, Germany, and Hungary. In Bremen he became a ship officer (in either the navy or merchant marine)
He emigrated to America in 1897, but it was not his intention to settle here. However, he ended up loving the American land so much he decided to stay. He first settled in New York and later, in 1898, he came to Bethlehem.After the 5 years prescribed by law, he applied and received U.S. citizenship. He married Therézia who was from Alsó-Rönök, in the province of Vas , which still exists today.

A large number of Hungarians had already settled in Bethlehem by then and quickly recognized William as a good Hungarian interested in the good of the community, as someone interested in establishing Hungarian institutions, and a generally active man. This is how he entered the social life of Hungarians in Bethlehem, which at the time, was taking it's first steps. He worked with great devotion toward the unity of the Hungarian community. He joined the "First Hungarian Conversational and Mutual Help Society of Bethlehem," which had 2 goals: to preserve Hungarian through conversation at social gatherings and to aid the community's infirm. The society quickly elected him president. He worked with vigor and enthusiasm to strengthen the Society along with his very active religious and patriotic roles and goals. At this time, a large movement was active to build the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church. He was one of the 5 men who spurred the movement forward.

William was the catalyst for the increased activity of the "Society for Infirmities," which is largely connected to his name. In addition, he was not only founder, but at the same time the most devoted member of the "Song and Self Instruction Circle," which he was one of the leading members for quite some time.

Often the case with someone who works for the common interest, he was also the focus of many attacks, but he always defended himself from such attacks with the knowledge of his honest work and good intentions. After working for a long time as a Bethlehem Peace Officer and public service, he retired in 1922, but remained a devoted member of the Society. The Conversation Society, in recognition of his merits, gave a large banquet in his honor to show their gratitude to him, and surprised him with beautiful momento which, not only to him, but also to his descendants, remains a source of pride. Despite the workload which accompanied his public service role, he always seemed to find time to help the new immigrants, both Hungarian and Windish brothers, find jobs and help them settle.

He apparently had a glorious history in the public life of Bethlehem Hungarians. Being a Bethlehem Police officer it generated honor for the Hungarian name. His position allowed many compatriots to seek him when problems arose, "Vilmos Friedman does his duty still today toward the people who come to him, and he never turns down an opportunity to help someone in need."

"In 2 instances, Vilmos risked much personally for both Hungarians and Windish interests, against a nationality which stood against us in Bethlehem and initiated an official investigation of bad will against him, from which he emerged brilliantly." (deliberately vague from author)

This was an excerpt from a 1930 Hungarian publication written and edited by Károly Castelli.