by Signe Wilkinson
Joe Szabo, the founder of “WittyWorld” and friend of cartoonists across the globe, died suddenly while working at his desk at home in North Wales, PA, on February 2, two days shy of his 66th birthday.
Joseph George Szabo was born in Budapest, Hungary, graduated from journalism school and married the former Flora Toth before they both emigrated to the United States in 1980 seeking freedom. They settled in North Wales where they raised 5 children in a one-bedroom apartment where the décor was mostly second-hand furniture and lots of books including an entire edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
As his son Sylvo wrote in remembrance , “Joe was a risk-taker” with a “life-long love affair with politics, swimming, ping-pong, chess, dark chocolate, and collecting artifacts from the various countries he’d visited.” Cartoonists will remember him for his ambitious magazine “WittyWorld”, which chronicled cartooning from around the world, and for his many cartoon gatherings. In 1990, he convened a memorable cartoonists’ convention in Hungary just as the iron curtain was falling. Cartoonists from the then USSR, Israel, Ireland, the United States and elsewhere met next to the Danube in Budapest and shared stories about their work and lives.
At the time of his death, he was working on “Images of America”, a book using cartoons to show how people from around the world see the United States. In addition to collecting cartoons, he had been interviewing people for the past 15 years in preparation for his text.
Joe sacrificed personal comforts for his passions, scraping by on odd jobs that fueled his travels and his publications. He was rich with friends, family and fellow cartoonists who mourn his passing.
Memorial contributions can be made to the International Spring Festival, Lansdale Public Library, 301 Vine Street, Landsdale, PA. Remembrances of Joe for his family can be sent to his former wife, Flora Szabo, email@example.com .