PORTLAND — Stephen “Steve” Zoltan Kecskemethy, 68, of Portland, died at home Aug. 17 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Born Oct. 19, 1944, in East Chicago, Ind., to Joseph and Elizabeth Kecskemethy, he and his older brother Joseph grew up in an orphanage run by his parents for Hungarian immigrants in Ligonier, Pa.

He attended public schools in Ligonier and Washington, D.C., and graduated cum laude from the Eastman School of Music, where he later served on the trustee board.

In 1969 Portland Symphony Conductor Paul Vermel formed the Portland String Quartet, from section chairs first violinist Kecskemethy, second violinist Ronald Lantz, violist Julia Adams, and cellist Paul Ross, a partnership that lasted for 43 years. They performed and taught throughout the United States, Japan, Russia, South America, and Europe, and were recently recognized by Chamber Music America for outstanding service and cultural contributions. A Harvard Business School instructional film of the PSQ is used worldwide as a model of teamwork. The Quartet has especially close ties with the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community.

Kecskemethy held an honorary doctorate in music from Colby College and served on the faculties of Queens University in Ontario, Canada, and the applied music faculties of Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby Colleges. He was particularly proud of the Capital Strings, a string orchestra he founded for talented young musicians with Betsy Kobayashi of the Pineland Suzuki School.

On Aug. 17, 1996, he married Shirley Helfrich in Boothbay Harbor. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, who enjoyed reading, Scarborough Beach, following sports, film discussions, hiking, and traveling. He was an avid fisherman and held a pilot’s license in his younger days. Known for his abundant hugs and kisses, Kecskemethy was a lover of people and stories. He was extremely proud of his Hungarian heritage and spoke the language fluently. He was an active member of Woodford’s Congregational Church and a deeply spiritual person.


He is pre-deceased by daughter Sofia Claudine Kecskemethy, his parents, and brother Joseph.

He is survived by his loving wife, Shirley Helfrich, of Portland; stepdaughter Elisabeth “Lisa”Anne Helfrich, of New York City; and from a former marriage to Priscilla Irene Kecskemethy; daughter Delina Elizabeth Hurder and husband, Jason Hurder, of Gorham, son “Zoli” Zoltan Kecskemethy and daughter Eva Marie Kecskemethy, of Portland; grandsons Everett and Nolan Hurder, of Gorham, and sisters-in-law Sue Kecskemethy, of Baden, Pa., Linda Ladd, of Windham and Janet Foran, of Lansing, Mich.

The family wishes to extend their deep gratitude to Dr. Fred Aronson and his staff, and to staff at Hospice of Southern Maine for their kind and compassionate care.

A memorial service was held Aug. 24 at Woodford’s Congregational Church in Portland with Reverend Carolyn Lambert presiding. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to LARK Society, PO Box 11, Portland, Me 04112 and to Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford Street, Portland, ME 04103.

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