Paul Fabry

Paul Fabry, who kept New Orleans on a global stage while promoting international relations and trade as the longtime director of the local World Trade Center and International House, died Wednesday. He was 99.

Fabry managed the World Trade Center and its predecessor, International House, for 23 years before retiring in 1985.

He came to New Orleans in 1962 to accept a position as director of International House, which was organized after World War II to develop trade and promote world peace.

"Our thinking was that there would be no war if people traded in peace," Fabry told The Times-Picayune in 2001. "If people do business with each other, if they lend money to each other, they can't go to war. We were the children of World War II, and these were the lessons we learned from it. We looked at this idea as the United Nations of commerce."

In 1968, Fabry helped found the World Trade Centers Association, with International House becoming the first World Trade Center in the organization. In the 1980s, it merged with the local International Trade Mart to become the World Trade Center New Orleans.

The new entity was headquartered in the 33-story building at the foot of Canal Street now being redeveloped as a Four Seasons hotel and condos.

As a board member of the World Trade Centers Association, Fabry helped establish 300 trade organizations in more than 100 countries. The association later became headquartered at the World Trade Center New York, whose "twin towers" were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even in retirement, Fabry, who spoke five languages, kept up an international profile, traveling with his wife to up to 25 cities a year. He once estimated that he had visited as many as 200 major world cities during his lifetime, frequently writing newspaper and magazine articles about his travels.

“Paul was so worldly and well-traveled and taught me a lot about international relations,” said Bob Carr, a longtime broadcaster who worked with Fabry as deputy managing director of International House. 

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1919, Fabry received a law degree at Pazmany Peter Catholic University in Budapest and served as a captain in the Hungarian army. He was a military correspondent in Europe during World War II and was imprisoned after joining the anti-Nazi resistance.

During the Holocaust, he worked with Swiss diplomats to assist Jews and others persecuted in Nazi-occupied Budapest. He was later honored by the Hungarian government with a Presidential Gold Medal for his service.

Following World War II, Fabry became chief of the Hungarian prime minister’s cabinet and was appointed that country’s envoy to Turkey. He resigned in 1947, refusing to return to Budapest because it was under Soviet domination.

In 1949, Fabry and his then-wife emigrated to the U.S. He was working in public relations for DuPont when Dr. Alton Ochsner and other local civic leaders recruited him to come to New Orleans to lead International House, which at the time had 3,000 members.

Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Fabry; two daughters, Lydia Fabry and Alexa Knight; a stepson, Dr. David Rutledge; two grandchildren; and three stepgrandchildren.

There will be a private memorial service.