Geza T. Thuronyi, 88; Bibliographer for Library of Congress

In 1988, a bank on the Antarctic Peninsula was officially named Thuronyi Bluff to honor Geza T. Thuronyi for his bibliographic research of the region.
In 1988, a bank on the Antarctic Peninsula was officially named Thuronyi Bluff to honor Geza T. Thuronyi for his bibliographic research of the region. (Family Photo)
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By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 4, 2008

Geza T. Thuronyi, 88, a retired bibliographer who headed a Library of Congress project that gathered scientific information on the world's cold regions, died Dec. 31 at Fox Chase nursing home in Silver Spring of complications of Parkinson's disease. He was a longtime Silver Spring resident.

Mr. Thuronyi, a Hungarian immigrant who spoke French, German, English, Hungarian and Russian, supervised a six-person staff that introduced computer technology into the preparation of two continuing bibliographies, "Antarctic Bibliography" and "Bibliography on Cold Regions Science and Technology." In 1988, a high, steep bank on the Antarctic Peninsula was officially named Thuronyi Bluff in his honor.

A man of many talents, Mr. Thuronyi was a short-story writer (in Hungarian and German), a skilled chess player and a gifted pianist who also cultivated the unique ability to hum and whistle two melodies simultaneously. He and his brother, Etienne, made a record of tunes in four-part harmony -- Etienne responsible for two parts on the piano, Geza whistling and humming the other two.

Mr. Thuronyi was born in 1919 in Klatova Nova Ves, in what was then Czechoslovakia, into an aristocratic Hungarian family. He received a law degree from Pazmany University in Budapest in 1941 and shortly thereafter was drafted into the Hungarian army. He served as a plane spotter for an antiaircraft unit monitoring Allied sorties from Italy.

After the war, the communist takeover of Hungary made him a refugee. His family lost all its property, and relatives immigrated to several countries. Mr. Thuronyi arrived in the United States in 1950 and never returned to Hungary.

Because his Hungarian law degree was not recognized in the United States, he could not practice law, so he became a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman. He hated the job and walked away after a week. Capitalizing on his language skills and scholarly bent, he became a bibliographer.

From 1950 to 1966, he worked for the American Meteorological Society, housed at the Library of Congress, where he wrote annotated bibliographies and produced "Meteorological and Geoastrophysical Abstracts." He worked for the Library of Congress itself from 1966 until his retirement in 1990.

In the Library of Congress snack bar one day in the early 1950s, he met the woman he would marry, Lilly Eckersdorf, whose family had escaped the 1918 Russian Revolution. She told him she had been searching for someone who could teach her to drive, and Mr. Thuronyi volunteered. On one of their early outings, with the aspiring driver behind the wheel, the brakes failed as the standard-transmission car rolled downhill toward a bridge. Mr. Thuronyi managed to talk his student to a stop without incident, and she decided that someone so calm and unflappable was likely to make a good husband.

Family was paramount for Mr. Thuronyi. He enjoyed planning family vacations and such outdoor activities as fishing and foraging for wild mushrooms.

Taking family snapshots on a vacation in rural Upstate New York on an August day in 1969, he survived an attack by a bull that repeatedly butted and pinned him to the ground while he desperately held on to its horns. His only injuries were two broken ribs, and from that day forward the Thuronyi family celebrated Aug. 20 as "Bull Day," with steak on the menu.

Mr. Thuronyi was an active member of St. Bernadette Church in Silver Spring, where he served as a cantor. He also volunteered as troop committee chairman for Boy Scout Troop 440 in Silver Spring.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Helen "Lilly" Thuronyi of Silver Spring; four sons, Victor Thuronyi of Wheaton, Paul Thuronyi of Charlotte, Alexander Thuronyi of Silver Spring and George Thuronyi of Arlington; a brother and sister; and two grandsons.

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