In Memoriam William Béla Aykler 1929-2018

Washington, DC – Members of the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) were deeply saddened to learn that William Béla Aykler passed away at home on June 23, 2018, surrounded by family. He was 89 years old.

William Béla Aykler. Source:

Béla (Berci to his many friends) was born in Nagyszőlős, then Czechoslovakia, on April 15, 1929. As a 17-year-old, the war swept him from a life of affluence and privilege. He became a refugee, eventually immigrating to Canada in 1947. He signed a one-year contract to work in agriculture, and then grew tobacco as a share cropper near Delhi until he saved enough money to move to Toronto. He enrolled at the University of Toronto to study civil engineering. To better support his growing family, he also took courses on property management, community planning and real estate appraisal. In 1956, following the Hungarian Revolution, he served as a volunteer coordinator for six months in the Jarvis Street Refugee Shelter in Toronto, assisting newly arrived Hungarian refugees in finding jobs and housing.

In 1958, fueled by a strong sense of entrepreneurship, Bill learned the business of real estate, becoming a realtor and partner in Gillen Associates Real Estate. By the start of the 1960’s, Béla Aykler expanded his real estate activities into the building trade.  The first townhouses in Toronto– elegant European style row housing–were introduced in the St. Clair Avenue Road district.

In 1985, his sons Les and Bob joined him, and the firm changed its name to Aykler Real Estate Inc.

Aykler spearheaded residential developments in Scarborough, North York and the City of Toronto. In the 1980s, rental apartments were in high demand, especially in the form of affordable (assisted) living accommodations.  Directly or indirectly, the Aykler firm assembled land or served as development consultant for more than 3,500 assisted units to serve Ontario and Federal housing needs, and about 1,600 hotel suites, satisfying a growing tourism industry.

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Béla Aykler and his firm served as development consultants for non-profit housing corporations, totaling more than 1,200 units of assisted housing in Metro Toronto, such as Villa Otthon I, a rehabilitation project and the newly built Villa Otthon II, Rákóczi I and II and Erdélyi House for the Canadian-Hungarian community. Tobias I and II were sponsored by the Franciscan Order, Don Mills and East Toronto parishes. Blue Danube House was sponsored by the Danube Swabian community, and Akwa Honsta was created as a non-profit housing corporation for First Nations.

Béla and his wife, Zsuzsa (Papp), turned their attention to giving back to their adopted homeland through philanthropy. As a founding member of the Rakoczi Foundation, he was instrumental in fund-raising for cultural events, conferences at the University of Toronto, and preserving the historical record. After 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell in east-central Europe, they established the Students Without Boundaries program, a scholarship exchange program to build bridges of understanding between students in Canada and east-central Europe. In 2008, this program was awarded the first Charlemagne Youth Prize from the European Parliament. In the past 25 years, more than 3,500 Hungarian minority students from the countries surrounding Hungary have participated in this outstanding program. Béla and Zsuzsa’s other major contribution to the greater Hungarian community in Canada and the United States has been the publication of a widely distributed Hungarian weekly newspaper, Kanadai Magyarság.

Béla is survived by his loving wife of thirty years, Zsuzsa, and sons Leslie (Christina) and Robert (Petra), and devoted grandchildren Justin (Lina), Daniel, Sebastian (India), Elisa (Stefan Sohns), and Tommy (Rachel), great-grandchildren Carter, Eleanora, Tommy and Ayra, and many nieces and nephews in Canada, the United States and Austria, who were all very fond of their “Uncle Bill.”  Bill is pre-deceased by his first wife Margaret and much-loved sister Caroline Padanyi (2016), older brothers István and Tibor Schroder, and Zsigmond Aykler.

The legacy of Béla Aykler will live on through his tremendous contributions to the historic growth of Toronto and for providing learning opportunities for young people through scholarships and exchange programs.  In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to a scholarship fund in memory of William Aykler.  Donations should be made to “Rakoczi Foundation,” and mailed to: 80 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1L6.

Visitation:  Thursday, June 28th at Morley Bedford Funeral Home, 7:00–9:00 pm, 159 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON

Funeral Mass: St. Elizabeth of Hungary RC Church Friday, June 29th at 11:00 am. 432 Sheppard Ave E, North York, ON

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