Arpad Horvath says he visited his father every day at Meadow Park nursing home before he died in 2014
The decision to put their father in a long-term care facility was excruciating for the kids of Arpad (Art) Horvath, who died at 75, less than a year after he moved into London’s Meadow Park nursing home.
Still coping with the death of a father figure who was larger than life, Horvath’s family is heartsick to learn police now believe he was killed two years ago by a Woodstock nurse accused of killing eight residents in a Woodstock nursing home and Meadow Park.
Arpad (Art) Horvath
“It’s devastating,” said Horvath’s son, also named Arpad, choking up many times during an interview Tuesday outside the former Central Tool and Die, the business his dad founded and ran for 50 years after immigrating to London from Hungary.
“To lose somebody like that. It’s sad. You figure he died, and that was it. The next thing you know, you find out (police believe) somebody murdered your father.”
It’s been two years since Arpad Horvath died — he was “unresponsive” when staff checked on him in the home one morning — and it’s been tough.
“He was my best friend,” his son said. “For me, because we were so close, it’s always tough.” As months turned to years, he did start to heal, he said.
“But then this comes up and you dig up all the old memories and go through the whole thing over again, it’s just devastating.
Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, 49, a former nurse with both Caressant Care in Woodstock and Meadow Park in London, was charged Tuesday with the first-degree murder of eight residents aged 75 to 96 years old, seven who lived at Caressant Care and Horvath at Meadow Park. The deaths took place between 2007 and 2014. Police say the residents were administered a drug.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer. (Facebook photo)
The elder Arpard Horvath — known as Art in the community — was one of those men who, when he shook your hand, “it stayed shook,” his son said. “Everybody who met him remembered him, that’s for sure. A character larger than life.”
He built his business from nothing and was always ready to offer others a hand up when they needed one. He taught his son the trade of tool and die and the value of hard work. They travelled together and did most things together, even after the elder Horvath moved into Meadow Park, his son said.
“He was the best teacher I ever had. The best friend I ever had.”
When dementia manifested in the elder Horvath in his early 70s he was a shadow of the passionate adventurer who used to traipse across the world to hunt wild game, headed the London Hungarian Club for three decades and built his business from the ground, running it for half a century after arriving in Canada full of dreams in 1956.
“You don’t want to do that to your own father, but age takes over,” said the younger Horvath of the decision to put his dad in a home. “He had been still living with my mom. It was tough for her. It was tough for everybody.
“His dementia had set in pretty good.”
They moved Horvath into Meadow Park in the fall of 2013 and made sure it was homey. “I decorated his room with all his photos. It looked like a mini-apartment,” his son recalled Tuesday.
He visited his dad every single day, he said. “We watched the World Cup. We watched movies.”
That Christmas, he brought over a Christmas tree.
The elder Horvath’s memory was failing him, and he was confused, but he still knew his family and loved the visits, his son said.
Horvath’s daughter, Susan Horvath, said she felt something was amiss before her father died and that he seemed to be in a lot of fear, “I just had a feeling and I told mom,” Horvath told radio station AM980. “And then when he passed on — and how he passed on — that’s when I knew: This is not right,” she said
Asked if he believes the death could have been a “mercy killing,” Horvath was adamant he does not.
“He wasn’t suffering. He was a regular dementia patient,” he said of his dad. “It’s just tragic.”
Owned by Jarlette Health Services, Meadow Park is a long-term care home at 1210 Southdale Rd. East with more than 120 beds.
Officials at the home declined an interview request Tuesday but later issued a statement.
“We are co-operating fully with police investigating the actions of a former staff member who left our home’s employ some two years ago. Our highest priority is to continue to provide for the health and comfort of our residents, and that remains our focus,” chief operating officer Julia King said in a statement.
Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Arpad Horwath when he was a resident of Meadow Park Care Centre in London, Ont. (DEREK RUTTAN, The London Free Press)
Loretta Cambridge, whose husband Paul has lived at Meadow Park for more than a year, said she was rattled by the news of the murder charges.
“That’s too close to home,” said Cambridge.
Horvath said he couldn’t comment on the investigation, or on the nurse charged with killing his dad and seven other nursing home residents, but said he will be at the trial, “every single day,” just as he was at the nursing home for his dad.
“I want to look her in the eyes,” he said.
He wants justice for his dad, for his family.
“All those other families out there, too,” he said. “They deserve justice in this and I hope they get it.
The charges against Wettlaufer haven’t been proven in court.
-with files by Dale Carruthers, The Free Press and Canadian Press