Steve Solcz recalls little about his early childhood when he and his mother escaped the Iron Curtain of Hungary.
"I came here on Dec. 26, 1949. I was 8 years old," Solcz said. "I don't remember too much because my mom and I literally had to sneak out -- crossing borders, swimming streams and stuff like that. Maybe it was the trauma, but I have very little memory."
Hungary is a long way from the South Bronx of New York City where Solcz eventually became a Wall Street executive. Solcz worked for American Express for 34 years.
"I started out in New York and worked on Wall Street for 15 years," Solcz said.
Solcz and wife, Mikey, were living in rural New Jersey with son, Andy and daughter, Jeanie.
Eventually, the company opened up an operations center in Salt Lake City and offered Solcz and his family an opportunity to relocate.
"Mikey and I decided to eliminate my three-hour commute and that's one reason we decided to move," Solcz said. "It was perfect for our children. We were there for 16 years."
Solcz and his wife began scouting out a place to retire and went on vacations in Colorado, New Mexico and eventually, Arizona.
"When it was Arizona's turn, I saw this small dot on the map surrounded by green," Solcz said.
That dot was Payson, and he and his wife wound up buying a house. They moved in April of 1999.
"Three weeks after one of the biggest snow storms Payson ever had," Solcz said.
After retiring in Payson, Solcz began looking for things to do. He is now on the board of directors of the Time Out Shelter, assists with the community concert series and is active in the Rim Area Gardeners.
"Mikey is the gardener, I just follow her around," Solcz said. "She is on the board of the xeriscape council."
Solcz considers the Time Out Shelter to be his main obligation.
"Mikey and I belonged to a service organization in Salt Lake City and one of the organizations we adopted was the local domestic violence shelter," he said.
Seeing the value of the shelter in Utah, Solcz did not hesitate to get involved with Time Out.
"It's the only thing of its kind in the whole area," he said. "There's no place else that women and children can go to get help."
Time Out provides emergency shelter for women and children fleeing abuse.
"If they disappeared tomorrow they would leave a huge vacuum that would have to be filled," Solcz said.
Solcz is currently organizing the shelter's major fund-raiser of the year, a banquet scheduled for Sept. 14.
"It's the largest single fund-raiser that they have. Most of our money comes from the thrift shop, some grants, and some funding from federal and state government. But in spite of that income, we still need about $50,000 local contributions to make ends meet and this fund-raiser is part of that local contribution," Solcz said.
Proceeds from the banquet go to the shelter's transitional housing program.
"Transition is basically an intermediate step. When someone is in crisis and it's an emergency, they go to the shelter and get all their basic needs along with counseling and emotional support," Solcz explained. "After that time period, they can be shifted into this transitional unit."
The transitional housing consists of four apartments located near the shelter, itself.
"It's basically housing and we expect them to contribute to the rent," he said. "It gets them ready to go out into the world without jumping into it immediately. It's like a regular apartment, but the support is steps away in the event they need some help and encouragement," he said.
Solcz credits the hard-working staff and more than 60 dedicated volunteers for the shelter's success.
Earlier this year, Solcz got involved in town government as well. He was one of the 15 people chosen for the Citizen's Ad Hoc Capital Improvements Committee (CIP).
The CIP committee was assigned the task of selecting the high-dollar projects that would become bond initiatives on the ballot.
Residents are currently filling out their mail-in ballots, deciding whether to fund projects such as street improvements, a new communications system for the police and fire departments, and a roof over the Payson Event Center.
"The key thing is that some things just have to be done," Solcz said. "I hope people vote based on information rather than emotion. The cost to the average family is not that expensive -- it's one good dinner out for two people."
After escaping communist Hungary, working in corporate America for more than 30 years, and raising his family, Solcz and his wife now enjoy a peaceful life in Payson, cooking, enjoying fine wines, and contributing to the community.
Name: Steve Solcz
Employer: American Express for 34 years.
Birthplace: Debrecen, Hungary
Family: Wife, Mikey; son, Andy; and daughter, Jeanie
Personal motto: It's better to light one match than to curse the darkness.
Inspiration: The average worker in America, who, dollar for dollar, provides far more to our economy than the highest paid executives.
Greatest feat: Growing up in the South Bronx, NY and still turning out OK.
My favorite hobby or leisure activity is: Having friends over for dinner and a good bottle of wine. Golf's not bad either.
The three words that describe me best are: Reliable, conscientious, considerate.
I don't want to brag, but: My tendency to make lists is what gets things done right and on time.
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Leonardo da Vinci.
Luxury defined: An endless succession of multi-course meals in a Caribbean resort --paired with appropriate wines.
Dream vacation spot: A cruise vacation in and around the Aegean Greek Isles.
Why Payson? It's a healthy community that you can wrap your arms around, yet it is within striking distance of a large city with an international airport.