TRIBUTE TO MATTY CAFFREY
A GLIMPSE OF HER LIFE & VIRTUAL MEMORIAL
By Marianne Mohr
Please join me in sending up a prayer for our beautiful, beloved Matty who left us to return to her Maker on October 1, 2022 at 93 years of age. Matty was fortunate to have excellent health most of her life and her last years were spent in a warm, safe setting without pain or worry, and with plenty of the beauty, human contact and activity she enjoyed so much.
On September 28, 2022 Hurricane Ian, a category 4-5 storm, turned toward Charlotte Harbor. Due to potential storm surge, Matty’s 260-bed Solaris Nursing Home in Pt Charlotte was evacuated. Upon her return, Matty passed during her sleep. It’s uncertain whether the strain of evacuation contributed to her passing, or simply, Matty was ready to depart. We do know that day she was smiling, at peace and had no pain nor complaints.
MATTY’S EARLY LIFE
As many know, Matilde Kovesi (Vargady) Caffrey was born in Budapest Hungary June 29, 1929.
When she was 10, her beloved Mother passed away and young Matty’s grief culminated in an emotional breakdown and yearlong stay at a sanitarium. As a teenager, she lived through war-torn WWII with bombs over head while evacuated to the basement for a year. After she married and I was born, she and my father fled in 1956 during the Hungarian Uprising against the Russian occupation – with nothing but what they could carry on their backs and their three year-old baby.
As a refugee mother, Matty had to do her best to raise me during our year stay in a group barracks at the Salzburg, Austria Red Cross refugee camp. She was a loving and protective mother with her infant charge. Our 3 member family emigrated to Toronto and finally Southern California in the 1960s – where we became US Citizens. As a proud and grateful American, she loved this country and was an active Democrat and voter. She rarely spoke Hungarian at home because she wanted me to be a “real American” not tied to my former roots. She and my Father were productive, contributing members of our society and an example of how immigrants help to build this country – even when, initially, they don’t speak the language, had no job nor citizenship.
During the years of turmoil and relocations (in 8 years: 4 countries and 3 different languages), Matty worked hard to maintain a stable home life for our little immigrant family. She was a great cook preparing traditional Hungarian foods like Paprikash and Langosh. She was health-conscious, dispensing wheat germ and vitamins to this kid when it wasn’t a trend yet. She kept clean, smartly decorated homes for us, and doted on our various pets, cat Henry & dog Davie.
In a time when these things weren’t “openly discussed”, Matty encouraged me to spot and defend against sexual abuse and bullies. Her lessons were appreciated and well-learned by me.
In high school, my girlfriends would say “let’s go to Marianne’s house … it’s like a German deli”, because instead of getting the hotdogs most parents served, Matty took the time to prepare exotic “brie/salami/fruit plates” for us! She was a nature lover, taking me and high school gal pals to weeklong campouts at SoCal surf spots and hikes in local forests. My mom was “cool”.
When I left for college, Matty divorced and married Doug Caffrey, the love of her life. She had 20 wonderful years with a man who, simply put, adored her. Matty was embraced by the Caffrey family and she loved her new 4 year old grandson Matthew. Later, as “Grammie”, Matty had wonderful times with Matt and Christina’s family and lovely daughters.
After they married, Matty and Doug moved to San Dimas Hills by Lake Puddingstone in a wonderful community of friends where she hosted many parties and enjoyed warmth and love from Doug, family, employer Dr. Garry DVM and a big circle of friends & co-workers.
Matty had a number of careers. In the late 1960’s she became A/R specialist at Monrovia Nursery – where she met Doug, her future husband. She was Office Manager of a veterinarian practice, Collections specialist of a car dealership, but her favorite job was operating a daycare with Doug when they moved to their Canyon Lake home. Many lucky children grew up in her loving care.
She fostered abandoned animals and kept one favorite fluffy white kitten, aptly renamed from Roxie to Rocky when, well, his “gender” became more clear!
After Doug passed, Matty retired and spent 10 joyful years living in my San Diego condo, enjoying Balboa Park & Old Town, and as a volunteer compassionate caregiver to terminally ill patients. She began watercolor painting and turned out to be a very talented artist producing volumes of lovely flower paintings. She loved her parakeet Amy, who she swore could speak! What a funny sight to see Matty toting the bird cage on any excursion, because Amy “had” to go everywhere with Matty. For Amy’s part, she enthusiastically kept exclaiming “Amy loves Mommy” – and yes, she really did say it! Matty had a fun, light-hearted sense of humor and we enjoyed movies like: My Cousin Vinny, Planes, Trains & Automobiles and The Birdcage.
In California, Matty and I took road trips together to Gold Country and San Francisco and a sleeper-car train excursion to Oregon. In the 1990’s she traveled to Budapest to reconnect with the people she hadn’t seen in 40 years and had a wonderful closure on her past life.
In 2004 Matty joined me in Florida only to be “greeted” by Hurricane Charley. After surviving 165 mph winds at my Punta Gorda home, she moved to our villa in Heritage Oak Park. She dubbed her new place her “best home ever” and loved her bright villa with a beautiful oak-lined front view. She decorated it to her liking with lots of red, her favorite color. She loved to swim and host parties. She made lots of friends in her community and enjoyed her beautiful carefree life there. She even found a Hungarian friend in the Park, Emy, with whom she shared her native language and stories of the old country.
She often said Heritage Oak Park was the best, most relaxed era of her whole life! During this time we took many excursions, like train trips to Savannah and Charleston. Matty and I also enjoyed Naples and Boca Grande for lunch and a regular strawberry ice cream at the train depot.
After many great years, Matty’s mobility and cognition worsened. As time passed, she had difficulty maintaining her independence even with a team of in-home providers including Angela, her beloved Caregiver. After a series of falls, surgeries, UTIs, ER/hospitalizations, she was admitted into Assisted Living and Hospice care in 2018.
Matty’s ALF private apartment was a miniature of her Heritage Oak Villa. I decorated it with all her favorite things, sneaking over after she’d fall asleep to complete it. She acclimated quickly, feeling safely “at home” surrounded by her pretty, familiar décor, cute red artifacts, nice kitchenette and private bathroom. Every room was charming, bright and fresh. Staff would bring people by and exclaim “Is this our new show room/model?” She was proud of her place and she had the 24 hour assistance and medical oversight she needed.
We enjoyed meals together at the onsite restaurant and hanging out with Lulu watching movies or doing yoga. Matty’s stay was marred by the Covid isolation during which time I could only visit through a window, for over a year. Her physician determined she needed more medical care – and Matty went to Solaris Skilled Nursing on Kings Hwy in Pt Charlotte.
In these years she had been admitted to Hospice twice, and given 6 months to live each time. But each time Matty “graduated” pulling out from the brink. Toward the end, she contracted Covid but had few symptoms! Her great genes, tenacious will to live and great care – helped her recover.
At Solaris she made lots of friends, including a Hungarian speaking lady who came to chat her up regularly after she overheard mom say “köszönöm szépen”. Staff had wondered what it meant because she used it often. “Thank you kindly”. The caregiving and nursing staff loved and doted on Matty because she was always sweet and polite with them. They would come have laughs with us in her room and we made sure we had candy for them during holidays, to show our gratitude.
Her room was an explosion of sunshine, her watercolor paintings and family photos on every square inch of wall. She was surrounded by fond memories, kind people, good foods, gardens, movies, her favorite red décor, me & Lulu and excellent medical care. Her Caregiver, Janet, treated Matty with tenderness – like a family member. During my absence, Angela or Rick would visit Matty, taking music, flowers and recording videos or facetime calls with me. Everyday Matty had at 10-12 visits from staff/friends/family, all giving her care and attention.
As her cognition declined even further, her world became smaller and smaller and it was the little things that made her happy. Sunshine, smiling faces, watching Seinfeld together, having her forehead rubbed, petting Lulu cuddled up by her side in bed, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!
Toward the end she did not recognize photos of her family/friends nor her homes and refused to get out of bed. Functions like eating and swallowing were difficult. Her weight plummeted. Speech eluded her. During my last visits with her during the days prior to Hurricane Ian, Matty and I shared lots of bright eye contact, gentle laughs, loving moments and touches.
And, even though the final, brutal stages of dementia had robbed her of speech, she whispered to me softly “I love you so much”. For this parting gift I am immeasurably grateful.
A LIFE WELL LIVED
Whether you knew her intimately or as an acquaintance, please know that Matty bloomed wherever she was planted. Throughout her life, she became more and more peaceful, sweet and relaxed. She was a brave woman who endured grave traumas in her life, most of which we will never experience, nor could fathom. Those traumas hurt and shaped her, but in the end, Matty’s pains were healed, a result of a wonderful “later life” full of love.
We’d all be better people by following Matty’s lifetime example of sweetness, generosity of spirit, a penchant for anything “cute” and her feminine kindness. Her touch was soft, as was her heart.
In the end, though we accept and respect her ascent to her Divine Destination, Matty’s passing will leave an empty space in the hearts of many, which will be hard to fill.
Yet somewhere in the cosmos/heavens, I believe Matty’s Bright Spirit will shine forever. I invite you to believe with me, in order to keep her memory alive in our hearts.
Thank you to everyone who loved and cared for my dear Mother. I appreciate the prayers your own faith/religion to help Matty rise to her Destination in peace, knowing she was loved and cherished by so many.
• Please join me in “lighting a candle” (on this site) to symbolically illuminate her way home.
• In lieu of flowers, consider a donation in Matty’s name to your favorite animal or child welfare charity. Both were important to her throughout her life and she’d appreciate it from above.
• Please share a post of your funny or memorable Matty story and photos here, so we can all celebrate the different facets of this beautiful woman’s life. I know we’d all enjoy hearing about your special moments as a way to keep her memory alive!
• A private memorial will be held to distribute her ashes at sea from Boca Grande.
• If you wish to receive some ashes for your own memorial to Matty, let me know 575 802-3013.