LEWISTON — A letter
to Santa Claus made an American out of Lewis Incze.
“He was the only
person I knew in the United States,” Incze said. “I knew of his generosity from
reading American newspapers. I wanted an entry visa.”
In 1949, he got one.
The letter made its
way to a postal worker in Santa Clause, Ind. He passed it on to a minister, who
read it from the pulpit. Among the congregation, Incze found a sponsor to help
him emigrate.
Within three
years, he was working in Maine, married to a local girl and trying to top the
prose of his plea to Saint Nick.
Today, at 94, Incze
is still married to Helen and still writing.
He has authored 36
books in all: travel stories, grammar texts, histories and manuals. The works
sit more than 2 feet high, taking up one-half of a bookcase in an office crowded with a life’s memorabilia.
The newest additions come from Incze’s birthplace, the town of Parajd, Romania, and the regional capital of Tamasi. There, in the traditionally Hungarian part of Transylvania, Incze’s work is finally being recognized.
In May, the Inczes’ four sons — Lewis, Daniel, Michael and Bruce — attended a dedication at the Tamasi Aron School where a new reading area was created in its English Department for his books. The ceremony was covered by a state-owned TV network, DunaTV, and broadcast from Budapest.
The elder Incze wished he’d been able to attend.
“Inside, I am two people,” he said. One is at home in America, where he has his wife, immediate family and friends. The other is in Parajd. “I am hanging on to the people because I love them.”
Incze grew up writing and loving language in a storybook village.
When he returned in 1986, chancing the anger of the Romanian government, running water meant a pipe in the driveway dripping cold water and transportation for some was from horse-drawn carts.
“It was like a fairy tale,”  Helen Incze said.
It had changed very little from the time when Lewis Incze was a young man in love with language. He wrote and worked on a trade: studying with a doctor to become an X-ray technician.
When World War II hit his home, he joined the Hungarian army. He became an interpreter, eventually working in the post-war years for the British in Rome.
He was there in 1949 when he wrote to Santa.
A year later, he was working in Lewiston, having followed a doctor to St. Mary’s Hospital. He stayed there, retiring as the director of education at the hospital’s School of Radiological Technology. Meanwhile, he wrote.
Though Incze’s work was never taken on by a large publisher, his books have been printed by several small houses. His work is particularly known in Hungary. In 1984, his “Footprints on Destiny Lane” received the gold award at
the 1984 Hungarian National Congress for best new historical work.
From the late 1950s until the 1980s, Incze wrote stories about travels for the Sun Journal and its parent publications, the Lewiston Daily Sun and the Lewiston Evening Journal.
Once a master of seven languages — Hungarian, Romanian, English, Italian, Spanish, German and French — he keeps up by regularly reading in each.
“I read one week in Hungarian, one week in French and so on,” he said.
And he writes.
His current work is a study of his family history.
“Maybe only the family will read it,” he said. “That is enough.”

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