Gerald was a person who left an imprint on all he met through his empathic nature, his directness, his engaging smile, his charm, his interest and deep curiosity in the other.
Gerald has been a significant person and presence in my life from the early 60’s from my teen years and for the many years since that we knew each other as adults. I will always be grateful for his warm outspoken welcome of my Maya and the feelings he conveyed that he was happy for me and for us. I would like to share with you a few of my fond memories of Gerald Arthur Black Blackman, who brought into the family a special, refreshing and warm tone in his direct manner of relating to others, through his respectful questioning and dialogue, listening, humor and laughter. Those human lively qualities made a valuable contribution to anyone he interacted with and also to the emotional tone of our family, where many things were left unsaid and were not expressed verbally.
I also have fond memories of the welcoming atmosphere and hospitality of Gerald’s parents in their home, where I would visit on occasion on returning from Shul on Shabbatot – Having a quiet chat with his quiet and reserved father Norman, a master-watchmaker and his warm affectionate Mother Sarah. A family home from where he no doubt derived his pleasant qualities.
In his courtship of Brenda, Gerald would often arrive at our home in Duff Road on his scooter. Being the friendly person he was, he could quickly become engaged with me in long discussions that sometimes turned into lengthly teaching classes in my bedroom. He invented formulas and methods, learning aids for me to use in my science classes at high school. Sometimes he became so engrossed in this venture, that I worried it might disrupt his romantic endeavors by keeping Brenda waiting. But no! Gerald was losing himself in something important and pleasurable to him…Giving his time to help an other.
Throughout his life Gerald had many inventive ideas and voluntarily “gave of his time” to others. The world of commerce, accounting and MBA didn’t seem to satisfy Gerald’s emotional needs, even though he was generous with his skills and time in that sphere. But he was constantly seeking expression for his altruistic side. Among the activities he undertook of which I am aware, was his caretaking of an ex-motorbike enthusiast who after severe injury became paraplegic, his volunteer teaching at the local school, inspiring curiosity in young children, his work at Beit Issy Shapiro and in the family financial affairs. He was always careful to give full acknowledgement and to show appreciation and respect towards those whom he felt as deserving and loyal.
I would like to share one more early memory I have of Gerald which I think is also very telling of the person he was throughout his life. Actually I think this might have been one of the first occasions that I saw Gerald.
On a bright summers day at the Bnei Akiva Summer camp in the early 60’s at Plettenberg Bay, some boys broke into the camp “Tuck Shop” (the camp Kiosk) and stole sweets and other goodies. Such an activity was called, “raiding” the tuck shop and it was considered by some to be a kind of daring fun activity, and not what it really was, a break in and theft. The next day they were all relaxing under a tree, when tall long-legged Gerald left his volunteer duty in the Kitchen (Mitbach) were he worked as cook and dishwasher, and dressed in his apron, made his way up the hill to approach the group, with a concerned expression. In an amiable but serious tone, he took issue with them and discussed what they had done. Here, very naturally and responsibly, it was Gerald giving them his time, establishing a dialogue and offering guidance regarding right and wrong. When cheesed off at someone, or when someone did not meet some of his standards of decent and moral behavior, I remember Gerald often using this saying “I don’t have time for him!”. For someone living in the shadow of a life threatening illness for so many years, the dimension of time, was an ever-present persistent shadow in his and Brenda’s lives. So this giving of his time to the other was so essential to Gerald, and tragically and ironically, in Gerald’s shortened life, it turned out that “yes”, “time was of the essence”.
I am thankful for and appreciative of those many memorable enlivening moments in time, evoked and conveyed by Gerald’s presence. These were and are, sources of inspiration, that Gerald gave me throughout my life
יהי זיכרו ברוך