By the time she was a young adult, Gyorgyi Nemeth Easler had survived World War II, escaped the communist bloc, helped her family out of a refugee camp and made her way to America with a mother and brother who, like her, spoke little or no English.
Once here, she focused on the future, not the past, and built a legacy of charitable works with the same indomitable spirit that saw her through the dark days in Europe.
"She wasn't somebody to sit at home and watch TV," said her son, David Easler of Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Easler of O'Hara died Dec. 3 of heart and respiratory problems at UPMC St. Margaret. She was 74.
She was born June 26, 1939, in Budapest, Hungary, the daughter of Paul and Emilia Nemeth.
As German and Soviet forces fought over Hungary late in World War II, Mrs. Easler's family took refuge in a bomb shelter for six weeks. One of her brothers, Attila, was born in the shelter in February 1945, Mr. Easler said.
Amid food shortages and safety issues after the war, Mr. Easler said, a relief agency sent his mother to Belgium for a year to live with a German-speaking family. When she returned, Hungary was a Soviet satellite.
He said his mother was forced to join the Young Pioneers, a communist indoctrination program that often required participants to wear uniforms and sing songs. During the 1956 uprising against the communist regime, Mrs. Easler's family fled Hungary and landed in a refugee camp outside Vienna.
There, Mr. Easler said, his mother used the German she had picked up in Belgium to negotiate her family's next moves. Her father and brother, Peter, eventually settled in Switzerland while she, Attila and her mother came to Philadelphia.
Her mother, who had been a nurse in Hungary, resumed that work. Mrs. Easler took a technician's job in a laboratory at Jefferson Medical College, where she met Richard Easler, a pathology resident. They were married in 1961.
The couple moved to Bethesda, Md., for Dr. Easler's Navy service before his career took them first to Canton, Ohio, and then Pittsburgh. Dr. Easler worked at West Penn Hospital for about 27 years.
Mrs. Easler became a U.S. citizen and Anglicized her first name to Georgi. "Her view was, I'm an American," Mr. Easler said, noting a person who questioned her accent got off on the wrong foot with her.
Her straight-ahead approach to life helped her to weather medical problems and made her a nurturing but demanding gardener. If she invested time in a plant, her son said, she expected it to thrive.
She volunteered for Shady Side Academy, which Mr. Easler and his brother, Richard, attended. She also devoted her time to Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, West Penn Hospital Foundation and the local chapter of the Philanthropic Education Organization, or PEO, which provides financial assistance to women pursuing higher education.
"I think she just felt women needed a chance to have an education," Peggy Menges, an Oakmont resident and longtime PEO member, said.
Her final year of high school interrupted by the Hungarian uprising, Mrs. Easler never returned to the classroom. But, her friend said, "she was certainly an educated woman in many ways."
In addition to her husband and sons, Mrs. Easler is survived by four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. next Friday at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church.
Correction (posted Dec. 13): An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name that Mrs. Easler adopted when she moved to America.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548.