Slain Queens mom Orsolya Gaal was remembered by family as “the most beautiful person” who was a devoted parent and avid world traveler during a Monday night memorial service.
“‘Orsolya, what a beautiful name’ was the response of many when first introduced to her, though few could ever pronounce her name correctly,” the victim’s heartbroken husband Howard Klein said during the ceremony at the Community House of Forest Hills.
Klein, his two sons and family and friends looked back on Gaal’s life that ended a month ago when her handyman ex-lover, David Bonola, allegedly knifed her to death inside her Forest Hills home.
Gaal’s husband described his late wife as someone who loved to travel, either with him, her two sons or by herself. The Hungarian native visited dozens of countries across several continents and countless American cities, as well as many cultural institutions and parks around New York City.
Klein met Gaal in Budapest during a Christmas party in 1994 right before he reached the end of his two-year deferment to Columbia Business School. After exchanging love letters and then traveling together in Thailand for a few weeks, Gaal later moved in with Klein when she got a job in New York. She moved in with Klein, in what was supposed to be a temporary stay, he said.
“I told Orsolya she could stay for awhile, but I expected once settled in a new job she would have to move out in six months or so to make friends of her own. I had an important career in front of me I said, I wasn’t ready to be tied down,” Klein recalled. “Six months later I put out a big matzo ball: I told her I loved her and that didn’t want her to move out.”
After moving out of Manhattan, the couple found a home in Forest Hills.
“What the past four weeks has demonstrated to me is my destination today and the foreseeable future remain in Forest Hills,” he said. “The outpouring of love, kindness and support for our family in the wake of this tragic shock means a great deal.”
Gaal’s oldest son, Jamie, speaking for him and younger brother Leo, said his mother “found happiness in our happiness.”
“When I think about my mom, I think about all the work she put into raising us,” Jamie said. “Everyone who knew her tells me how much she loved me and Leo and it reflected in her actions.”
Gaal made a big deal about her sons’ birthdays, staying up all night the day before to get ready, Jamie said. When he had friends over in middle school, she’d give them new a stash of snacks every 20 minutes before they finished what they already had, he recalled.
“We’d barely be done eating the previous bag of Goldfish by the time she brought two new ones,” he said. “It was kind of an inside joke between me and my friends that she was so nice and accommodating and it showed what kind of person she was.”
Jamie will graduate from high school next month and Leo will celebrate his twice-postponed bar mitzvah next month.
“She had a passion for making her kids happy,” he said. “She found happiness in our happiness. Right now that’s what’s important to remember.”
A funeral was held for Gaal a couple weeks, Rabbi Mark Kaiserman, of the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, said Monday. Her ashes will be interred with family in Hungary and her family locally, he said.