Tibor Nagy, Sr., a retired USAID Foreign Service Officer (FSO), died on April 25, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Born in Budapest, Hungary, Tibor served as a career engineering officer in the Hungarian army and participated actively in Hungary’s brief quest for freedom in 1956. He knew he was facing execution after the uprising was crushed and he escaped with his young son, Tibor Jr., into Austria, eventually arriving in the U.S. as political refugees in 1957. Being penniless and without English, Tibor worked menial jobs until he learned English and received his U.S. engineering license.
After gaining recognition in private practice, Tibor was hired by USAID in 1969 to work as a civil engineer in South Vietnam on infrastructure development and repairing war damage in the Mekong Delta region. He stayed in Vietnam, and then went to Haiti in 1976 to help design and repair roads and bridges. After Italy suffered devastating earthquakes in 1980, he was transferred to Naples to help implement a massive U.S. relief program to repair the damaged infrastructure. He also managed projects in other Mediterranean and Middle East countries out of Naples.
In 1987 he “retired” from USAID as an FSO, but came back immediately under contract to help repair damage in El Salvador after its civil war. In 1993 he retired again, but was again called back in 1995 – this time to help revive Bosnia’s infrastructure after the Balkan civil war. He stayed in Sarajevo until 2000, when he finally did retire and returned to Washington after being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. Because of his expertise in working in war zones and areas of devastation, Tibor earned the nickname “disaster master” among USAID’s engineering corps.
One of his proudest moments came in 1998 when he was invited back to Hungary by the government to a ceremony in his honor to nullify his 1956 treason conviction and death sentence, promote him in rank to full colonel backdated to 1956, and award him one of Hungary’s highest honors – “Hero of the Revolution.” The same son who left with him as a little boy, now U.S. Ambassador Tibor P. Nagy, Jr., accompanied him back to Budapest along with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. During his career, Tibor received a number of superior and meritorious honor awards, as well as citations from Haiti and Italy. In addition to Hungarian and English, he also was fluent in Russian, French, Italian, and Spanish.
Tibor is survived by his son, Tibor Jr., daughter-in-law Jane, grandsons Stephen and Peter, granddaughter Tisza Rutherford, and great-granddaughters Aliyah, Kalyx, Serey, and Abbey.