Obituary of John A. Holy
John Alois Holy (98), beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and loyal friend, passed away in his sleep in the early morning of July 24th 2020. His final weeks were spent peacefully at home with family around him, secure in the knowledge of a life fully lived.
John was unfailingly serene and gentle in his dealings with others, but beneath the surface, he was a driven individual and a hard worker. In his own words, he lived ‘a traumatic life in a tumultuous century’. John loved words and had a way with them. That gift paved a path that took him through all kinds of wilderness.
He was born on February 8th, 1922 in Nová Baňa, a Slovak gold mining town. He was the second son of a second son from a family of prominent landowners. John’s father was the minister of forestry for the central region of Slovakia and was instrumental in bringing electricity to the region when John was seven. His eldest brother went on to become a Slovak economic minister. Following this tradition of service, John himself would become a steward for all Slovaks.
In March of 1939, John left his home for university in the Slovak capitol of Bratislava. Germany had occupied the Sudetenland the prior September and Hitler proclaimed the puppet ‘Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia’ as John unpacked.
He graduated with a writing degree in 1944, just as the Germans defeated a Czechoslovak uprising. Months later, the armies of the Soviet Union marched through his homeland and John got his first personal glimpse of his lifelong nemesis: totalitarianism.
John went to work for a national newspaper and became a prominent anti-communist journalist, though always ‘implying between the lines’. John described himself at this point in his life as ‘rebellious’ and ‘a little bit of a hot head.’ In 1947, a member of the Czechoslovak underground implicated John as a fellow member in order to receive leniency at the hands of the Soviets. John was taken from his bed at 5 AM on a cold November morning in 1947 and imprisoned for three months.
While in prison, John began to contemplate a better life in the West, and to study English by reading books of increasing difficulty (though also requesting Russian literature to conceal his intent).
His brother, then a Viennese economist, was able to help secure John’s release just before the Czechoslovak Communist Party took complete control of the government. With his arraignment pending, John fled to the West. On the night of May 1st, 1948, John and two other men dodged patrols and crossed the Morava River under the cover of darkness.
Fifteen months later, in September 1949, he landed in Boston with a small suitcase and a few dollars; yet another of the ‘huddled masses’. He traveled to Great Falls, Montana to earn his visa. He worked odd jobs until 1952, when he became editor of the Slovak Catholic Sokol newspaper, in Passaic, NJ.
Around this time, John met Nina Frissikova at a social event hosted by St. John Nepomucene Church in New York City (a central beacon for American Slovaks). John and Nina were from similar parts of Slovakia, were intellectual equals, and shared ambition and a love of exploration. They also shared a love of Slovak Culture and history that would last a lifetime. On June 13, 1953, they were married. They had two daughters, Luby and Jane, and a son, Robert, who died in infancy.
John had a successful insurance career with Metropolitan Life for fifty years to support his family. His true passion, however, was for the Slovak people. He was a reporter, editor and journalist for several newspapers circulated throughout the Slovak diaspora for almost seventy years. He spoke seven languages and wrote incisively on developments throughout Eastern Europe. This facilitated Slovaks and Czechs to a better understanding of themselves and of their respective histories.
Over the years, John saw many friends rise to senior positions in the Slovak government. He himself became an important voice not only in Slovak politics, but also in interactions between the Slovaks and the US government. He was invited to the White House by six different presidents and received multiple honors for service to his ethnic heritage. These include the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998, and the Medal of the President of the Slovak Republic (the highest civilian honor), awarded by president Michal Kováč. In addition, he was the long serving Secretary-General of the Slovak League of America, the Publisher and Editor of the Slovak language newspaper, Slovak v Amerike, and with his wife, was active in numerous Slovak organizations, both domestically and internationally. Nina carries on their joint work.
John was, at his core, a simple man. He relished quiet, a beautiful landscape, the benefits of hard work, and the bustle of family life. He is survived by his wife Nina, their two daughters: Luby Masi and her husband Tom, and Jane Konzelmann; four grandchildren: John and his wife Angela, Jenna, Mark and Andrew, and three great grandchildren.
Funeral will be held Saturday, August 1st, as follows:
9:00am - (Family ONLY) Reception of the Body at the Church of St. John Nepomucene, East 66th and First Ave., NY, NY
9:30am - Wake
10:00am - Eulogies will be delivered.
10:30am - The Holy Sacrifice of The Mass for Christian Burial will Offered.
Internment is private.
Funeral will be live streamed beginning at 10:00am: Worldwide access is available via Facebook: go to www.Facebook.com and go to the page "Lux New York". In addition, the live stream can be viewed at www.eastrivercatholics.org
During these times of restrictions, please be advised that the church can only accommodate 100 people inside. All those in attendence must wear a face covering.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to:
St. John Nepomucene Church
411 East 66th Street, New York, NY 10065
Jankola Library and Slovak Museum
c/o Sr. Catherine Laboure SS.C.M., Director
1002 Railroad Street
Danville, PA 17821
Slovak League of America
c/o Dan Tanzone
205 Madison Street, Passaic, NJ 07055