Vilmos Milisits was born in a small village on the border of Hungary and Austria, the eighth and last child of two chefs, Teresa and Istvan Milisits.
He was raised on a farm with his siblings and attended the local village school. A keen learner he developed his business skills early in life by bartering his time for extra rations.
His father was absent in his early years as he was taken as a political prisoner under the Nazi regime and later sent to a work camp under Communist rule.
When Vili was eight his entire family fled Hungary on foot during the 1956 uprising, leaving with only their clothes, papers and a feather quilt that Vili had plucked the geese to fill.
The family registered with the Red Cross at the border and became refugees. Initially they were housed in an Austrian chalet by a generous Austrian before moving on to Graz and then London into a previously bombed building.
The conditions were not ideal. Dinner was sometimes a piece of bread and a cup of cocoa, bathing was allowed only once a week.
Vili was sponsored and attended a private school in London but struggled with his lack of English. He loved maths because it was the same in every language.
After two years the family was accepted for residency in Australia, a country they knew little about but based the entire decision on the fact it was a huge island continent so there wouldn’t be fights over borders.
From Trieste in Italy they boarded a ship bound for Melbourne with a condition of entry that they settle in Adelaide. The Milisits rented a one-bedroom house in Carrington Street where Vili slept under a kitchen table. The older siblings went to work and Vili attended St Joseph’s Primary at Hectorville. He became a master at artichoke harvesting as this was the detention punishment at the time.
The family soon pooled their money with three other families and bought a deceased estate in Stepney. The four families lived there until they paid if off and then sold it and used their portion for a deposit on land in Campbelltown. Vili went to Campbelltown High until he was 14 and was voted ‘least likely to succeed’.
After his father died, his mother sent him to do an apprenticeship as a pastry cook. He worked at Kazzy’s Cakes at Burnside and once qualified he leased some equipment from Kazzy and sold his car to purchase his first week of ingredients and started a bakery at Beulah Park on Fullarton Road.
Vili had met Rosemary at a friend’s birthday party and they had started dating. Vili would frequently drop around cakes for all the nurses at Wakefield Memorial where she was a live-in nurse. The relationship grew and in 1968 they married. Simon arrived in 1969 and Vili was overjoyed to have a child.
Not long after, Vili found a house in Mile End South where he built a bakery in the backyard and where the family bakery is still located today.
Vili had many interests and hobbies and was fiercely competitive in his life. He had an immense love for his family but fishing was a close second that he continued throughout his life. He played competition grade for Hellas West Adelaide in soccer and league Ten Pin Bowling for more than 30 years. He loved tennis which he took up in his forties and enjoyed playing socially. He loved camping and exploring the entirety of Australia in the car on road trips or with the Variety Club bush bash. He also spent time daily in his garden with a glass of wine in one hand and a hose in the other, and he would pick Rosemary flowers for the living room every week.
Vili was a worker. He had endless energy when it came to improving his business and providing for his family. In fact he had endless energy for anything he believed in or anything that could be done better.
He had been hungry and lived in poverty before and swore he would never do either again. He was a man of commitment and if he committed he was all in, even if it was to his own detriment.
He was an extremely positive person who viewed each day as if it was the best he would ever live. He would rise at 4am and you would hear him whistling and singing in the shower, giving himself a pep talk before leaving for work. He seized the day and no matter how bad the day got, he would open a nice bottle of red and sit on the verandah and turn it into his best day.
Vili may only have fathered two children in his life but he was a father figure to many more. He was a man who had a lot of love to give and knowledge and guidance to share. A man of many words who was passionate about life, a man of principles, he was gentle, humble, patient, caring and generous. He was a people person and the life of the party. He would light up a room with his Cheshire cat smile and laughter.
Vili was a doer! A man who will never wonder ‘what if’ because he did everything he put his mind to. He dreamed big, achieved higher and never accepted no for an answer. He challenged himself and others to reach their full potential and saw the best in people. He was a truly remarkable, inspirational and generous person who overcame many obstacles in life. He fought for everything he believed in with tenacity until his last breath and he leaves the world a better place for having had him.
Taken from the eulogy delivered by Vili’s daughter, Alison Milisits, at his Funeral Mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on April 29.Jump to next article