My Dad lived a full and accomplished life. He was born
in Siaulia, Lithuania on the 1st February, 1925 - his father had come
from Baisogala, Lithuania and his mother from Rostov-on-the-Don in
Russia. He had two sisters, one of whom - Judith Katz - still lives in
Johannesburg. His other sister - Pola Segall - died in 1993. He arrived
in South Africa in about 1930 and stayed in the small town of Rouxville
for a couple of years. Interestingly enough the first language that he
learnt in his new country was Afrikaans and until then had only known
Yiddish and Russian. His first exposure to English was when the family
moved to Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia in 1933. Livingstone is right at
the Victoria Falls on the border with Southern Rhodesia. He had fond
memories of his stay in Livingstone and after a short stay there the
family moved to Caledon in the Cape and then to Uitenhage in 1936. His
schooling in Uitenhage was at Muir College and he matriculated at age 16
with Geology as one of his subjects. He was a top student and a top
athlete and was involved in rugby, boxing and athletics. His long jump
record stood for over 20 years before it was broken.
In January,1942 he lied about his age (he was still 16 years old) and he
volunteered with the South African Forces and saw action in the Middle
East, Sicily, Italy and in Yugoslavia until December, 1945. He returned
to South Africa and went to Rhodes University in Grahamstown to do a
B.Sc. majoring in Geology. While there he made friends with Ian Smith -
the future Prime Minister of Rhodesia. This friendship lasted through
all the years and when I last saw Ian Smith at a Rhodesian Reunion in
Las Vegas in 1998 we talked a bit about my Dad. At one time Mr. Smith
was head of the Student Representative Council at Rhodes and asked my
Dad to run for one of the vacant positions on the Council. He did so and
but then pulled out of the race when he found out that his opponent had
been lying about his war service. He just didn't like the game of
politics. In later years when we lived in Bulawayo Mr. Smith asked my
Dad to run for a seat in Parliament. Once again he refused as he didn't
enjoy politics. When we moved to Salisbury in 1967 my parents were
frequent guests at the Smith residence and my Dad often visited Mr.
Smith in his office. He recalled how they were chatting when someone
came in to inform Mr. Smith that Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd - the Prime
Minister of South Africa had just been murdered.
He completed his studies at Rhodes in 1948 - once again doing very well
in all his courses as well as representing the University in several
sports. His final year Chemistry examination he got 100% and he managed
to find two mistakes in the exam! He met my late mother, Jenny Flax, on
a beach in Port Elizabeth and they got married in 1949. Ian Smith had
talked him into moving to Southern Rhodesia and so in 1949 they moved to
Que Que and he had the position of Resident Geologist on the Globe &
Phoenix Gold Mine. In 1950 he was admitted as a Member of the
Institution of Mining and Metallurgy in London, England.
During the period 1953 to 1957 he spent a couple of years at the
University of London and obtained a Diploma of the Imperial College in
Economic Geology through the Royal School of Mines. In 1957 he was
awarded his Ph.D in Economic Geology from the University of London.
On his return to Rhodesia he was the Mining Representative for R.T.
Mines Ltd. in 1958, Chief Exploration Geologist for Frobisher Ltd.in
1959 and then Regional Geologist for Matabeleland working for the
Rhodesian Department of Mines in Bulawayo from 1960 to 1966. From 1966
to 1972 he was Chief Geologist for Anglo-American Corp. in Salisbury.
From 1972 to 1974 he became a self-employed Consulting Geologist
operating in Mozambique, Malawi, Angola, East Africa, South Africa and
South West Africa. He was the Director for several companies and
part-owner of two gold mines in Rhodesia and a corundum mine in Malawi.
He consulted to many mining groups and companies on feasibility studies,
ore reserves, calculations, mineral brokerage, investments, negotiations
at high levels, mineral property evaluations and mine reporting. He was
responsible for negotiating the sale of mining leases and properties.
In 1975 he moved to Windhoek as the Geological Consultant to J.C.I. on
copper properties in South West Africa - determining ore reserves and
carrying out feasibility studies. In 1976 he was Assistant Chief Mine
Engineer for the Palabora Mining Company in charge of open pit planning
and directly connected with the operation of one of the world's largest
In 1976 he moved to Johannesburg and took the post ion of Chief Mineral
Economist for the Department of Mines (Minerals Bureau) and by 1990 had
risen to the position of Director in charge of the Minerals Bureau.
During his years with the Minerals Bureau he was in charge of the
minerals trade that South Africa had at that time with countries around
the world. It gave him an opportunity to travel the world and meet the
heads of many countries - Prime Ministers, Presidents, etc. At one stage
he was secretly flown into Ghana and Nigeria and had been issued with a
fake Canadian passport and ID. To his shock there was a TV crew waiting
to greet this "Canadian" businessman and his main worry was that the
Canadian embassy would catch this on the local TV news.
He was a world expert on gold, copper, nickel, asbestos, coal, diamonds,
emeralds, limestone, scheelite, wolframite, columbite, tantalite,
fluospar, chrome, iron-ore and manganese and had written many papers on
Geology, Mining and gemstones published in the annals of many learned
societies. He was best known for papers on gold and structures and
copper ores in S.W.A.. He was a regular contributor to various mining
magazines and allied publications.
In 1980 he had completed a novel on emerald smuggling in Rhodesia. This
was based to a large extent on fact. Universal Studios in Hollywood
wanted to purchase the movie rights to the book and in 1981 my parents
were flown to Los Angeles for the negotiations. They were there for
several days and one day one of the movie producers asked him if they
wanted to spend the day at Disneyland. He was told that there would be
another couple and their child joining them for the day and he had no
idea who this Engelbert Humperdinck fellow was! The following year they
were flow to New York and the studio purchased the rights to the book
but unfortunately the movie was never made and the book was never
That in a nutshell is the life of my Dad. He was diagnosed with cancer
of the colon three and a half years ago and had his colon removed. The
cancer spread to his liver and he underwent chemotherapy every 3 weeks.
He decided to travel to North America twice a year while he could and we
had some really terrific trips to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York
a couple of time, Boston, The Oregon coast, San Francisco and Nevada.
Our last trip was in April to Atlanta, Georgia where we rented a car and
drove through Alabama and Mississippi to New Orleans. On the way back it
was a big thrill for him to stop in Panama City, Florida and also
Chattanooga, Tennessee. By then he was wheelchair bound but we still
managed to have a great time and got around just fine. He was real
fighter right to the end and never lost his sense of humour. As his
doctor said a week or so before he died - "he's a tough old bugger"!
He is deeply missed. The loss of my Dad leaves me sad for I will miss
him, but I am grateful for the wonderful memory that he leaves behind of
a good, warm kindly person - a fine human being.