Thursday, March 19, 2009

Uncle Fred

He was born in 1914.... yes he is 95 years old.

My wife, Jenny, and I went out for dinner with him tonight. He drives his own car, lives in his own apartment, and generally holds his life together better than many who are younger than him.

His day began with a visit to the local nursery to buy some plants for his garden. He played bridge after lunch, wrote some letters, and accompanied us to a local restaurant in the evening. He was fun to be with, displaying a sharp mind, and capacity to engage in conversation on a wide range of topics. He is a perfect gentleman from a bygone age.

Oh yes – he is from another time in history:
His father came to South Africa from Germany before World War One and became a naturalised British citizen. He was a chemist and worked at a factory in Somerset West, where they manufactured explosives for the mines. His mother was born in Germany and moved to (then) German South West Africa. She met Fred’s father while recovering from an operation in Cape Town and they were soon married. Their happy life was disrupted by the advent of World War One, and the arrest of Fred’s father. Although a naturalised British citizen, he was of German birth, and therefore suspect. So he was kept in a camp at Pietermaritzburg for the duration of the war, with Fred and his mother moving to Natal to live nearby. He died soon after his release and Fred and his mother had to fend for themselves.

Fred was apprenticed to a pharmacist. He completed a three year apprenticeship and found work dispensing medicine. This included training an optometrist, because pharmacies also provided eye care. During World War Two, Fred’s job was to supervise 20 mine dispensaries. He later joined a pharmaceutical company, rising to become its CEO.

Uncle Fred retired at 65.... which means that he has been retired for 35 years. I know him to be generous to many of our church projects, kind to lonely people, and determined not to engage in self-pity. His recounts with joy his visit to Germany last year, where his niece took him on the autobahn in her Porsche and generally went faster than we can dream of in South Africa.

I want to grow old like him.


Cecilia said...

He's a very inspiring guy. Thanks for sharing his story.

Pax, C.

barbara said...

Such a fascinating life. Are you actually related to him?