The late Vili’s Pies founder Vilmos ‘Vili’ Milisits was remembered fondly and his legacy honoured in a state memorial service as a man of “boundless generosity”.
Over two days of services which were also streamed online for those who couldn’t attend in person, politicians—including Premier Steven Marshall and Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas—and pastry workers joined Vili’s family and friends at the Adelaide Festival Theatre to remember and celebrate his remarkable life.
Perhaps out of place at most funeral services, the Vili’s pie cart carrying a three-tier cake embellished with a photo of Vili’s smiling face was the perfect touch for the icon of Australian baking.
Master of ceremonies and football great Graham Cornes said Vili “had an affinity with the working class”.
“Vili had a special touch of magic … boundless generosity,” Cornes said.
Governor Hieu Van Le, a refugee himself, said he felt a “strong kinship” with Vili, who fled Hungary in 1956, leaving school aged 14 to work at a cake shop in Burnside before starting his own venture on Manchester Street in Mile End, where the original Cafe de Vilis is now.
“His is an inspirational story of how multiculturalism has helped shape our nation economically, culturally and in so many ways,” Mr Le said.
“(Vili’s family) had to start out like many other new migrants and navigate the many overwhelming challenges of finding a new home, learning a new language, adjusting to new ways of dealing with a different civic system, accessing new services and embracing a new way of life.”
Vili’s wife, Rosemary, and daughter Alison also addressed the memorial.
The service concluded with Vili’s famous saying: “I’m Hungarian by birth, Australian by choice.”
Vili died in March aged 72 following a lung transplant in Sydney.