John Chapman (known in youth as János “Janko” Csap) was born in Budapest on September 11, 1926. He was a man formed deeply by the triumphs and tragedies of 20th century European politics, and his courage and resourcefulness nourished a truly fascinating life.
Janko’s parents were János Csap Sr., a tradesman who later worked in the Hungarian army, retiring as a sergeant major. His mother, Maria Stelcz, was a brilliant woman who brought in extra income by making and selling dolls. Janko was the third born and eldest boy in a family of eight children. He had fond memories of playing with Roma boys and girls in his neighbourhood, and of earning coins by fetching balls for wealthy patrons at the local tennis club. But there was not enough food at home, and when doctors expressed concern that little Janko was not growing, locals hatched a plan to send him to a nearby Italian-run boarding school for three months of fattening up. There, at age nine, he showed great academic promise, and won a scholarship to continue at the school. Three years later, at just twelve, he served as an interpreter during the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest for Archbishop Pacelli (who later became Pope Pius XII) and for Montini, the papal secretary who went on to became Pope Paul VI, and who was canonized by the Catholic Church in 2018.
At age seventeen, János joined the Hungarian army to help fight back Soviet forces in the run up to the Siege of Budapest. After Hungary’s defeat, he retreated to Western Europe, where he studied and traveled widely (especially in Italy, a country he loved) before concern for his family and countrymen and women brought him back to Budapest. There he joined efforts to subvert the new regime, and spent time in Soviet labour camps where he suffered greatly. He participated in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, after which he fled West, unable to return on pain of death until the fall of communism in 1989. He left behind two sons, one of whom was raised by János’ mother, Maria.
Fearing reprisals, János changed his name to John Chapman and settled in Canada as a political refugee during the 1970s. He met and rescued Elisabeth Meyer during a hotel burglary in New York City, and she immigrated from Germany to marry him. They lived together in Williams Lake, B.C. with Elisabeth’s youngest daughter Ulrike, while also providing foster care for troubled youths. John worked in local government and maintained interesting friendships around the world before retiring on Vancouver Island. His Hungarian memoir will be published in Budapest later this year, and is roughly titled Recollections of the Hungarian Daedalus. He was brilliant man—passionate, loyal, crafty, and witty. He loved the country of his birth and the country of his refuge, Canada. His legacy made an indelible impact on his family, and he will be remembered with deep affection.
John was preceded in death by his two Hungarian sons, Lajos (2012) and Robert (2009), and his beloved wife Elisabeth (2017). He is survived by his sister Manyi (Siofok), his brother Imre (Budapest), his three stepchildren Ludwig, Annemie (Canada) and Ulrike (U.S.A.), his daughters-in-law Mari (Budapest) and Xiao Yan (Canada), and his grandchildren Bea (U.K.), Melinda (Budapest), Rachel (Australia), Jesse and Anakin (U.S.A.).
Viewing at 19.30 am at Telfords 595 Townside road
Graveside Service at 11 am Chinese Burial ground on Townside road