My father died this afternoon. Out of respect for his memory I will be observing a brief silence here over the coming days. Last November, on his hundredth birthday, I posted this tribute. To mark his passing, I reproduce below the short speech I made on that occasion.
What do you say about a man who's celebrating his 100th birthday? I've never had to do it before.
OK, I guess the first thing you say is: what an achievement! Those of us here who are getting on a bit already know that life doesn't get any easier as you reach your mature years, if I can put it like that. Certain things that used to be altogether straightforward start to get difficult. There is no more surprising fact about life in a way. How much more so if you get to be 100. So the first thing I want to say about, and to, my dad, is well done – congratulations.
The second thing I want to say is, you played a blinder. You played a blinder, Dad. You've led a good life, professionally, personally, and in every way; been a generous man and a good and loving father to your children.
The third thing I want to say is that it's an old fact but one which should be remembered, that Dad is of the generation who fought in the Second World War. He was in a tank squadron, first in North Africa, then in Italy, and even to this day what those who fought against Nazism achieved, what they saved the world from, must not be forgotten. Naturally, that generation didn't choose to be young men and women when they were, but they were called upon to fight against an abomination and they did it. Dad was one of them and I'm proud of him for that alone, apart from what he has done personally for his family.
Fourth, in case there's a stray person who crossed his path and hadn't noticed, let me say that Dad has been no slouch in the brain department. What this guy knows about history, politics, economics and a bunch of other subjects, is enough to set anyone back on their heels. And he never kept it to himself; he always shared it.
An abiding memory of my childhood is Sunday afternoons at the Gerases, Jack and Mary's, 68 Moffatt Avenue, Hillside, Bulawayo. All the friends were there: the Friends (Harry and Eve), the Morgans, the Warings, the Lichtensteins, the Williams, and others besides. And in the conversations during the afternoon, you could be sure that Dad would get his chance to hold forth, because others wanted to hear what he had to say.
That never changed about him, and the discussions I've had with him, often agreeing, sometimes not, but vigorous discussions from which I always learned something, were too many to count.
It's a sadness that Mary and Nita are not here today to celebrate with Dad and the rest of us; but, though I don't believe in people living on once they pass, and neither does Dad believe this, I think we can safely assume that the memory of the two of them is here with enough of us to make them present in some way, and part of this occasion.
One more thing I want to say is that it's really good that so many of the family are able to be here. People have come from as far away as... Cambridge; and Norwich. And Israel, and Moscow and Vilnius, and Croatia. Thanks to everyone for coming and let's make sure we give my dad a wonderful day to remember.
Dad, we're all so happy to be here with you today; to wish you happy birthday and many happy returns. Know that you are a loved father and grandfather, and that you made many good friends in your life.
If I may finish with a personal word: you have been a good example to me throughout my life, and for that I will always be grateful.
L'chaim. To Dad, to Jack, on his 100th birthday.