GEORGE NEWS - Gordon Alexander Patterson Fraser passed away after a short illness from heart failure, three days after his 86th birthday.
Fraser played a very prominent role in caring for the sick and the destitute in George and as founder member and first CEO of the Article 21 company Christian Medical Service and Relief (CMSR), he laid the foundation for the present-day Bethesda Child and Youth Care Centre.
In his later years his answer to questions by final-year students at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Stellenbosch on management of a faith-based organisation went as follows: "If any employee steals even a loaf of bread, fire that person. No talk of sweet Jesus and blommetjies. That bread was paid for by donors that trust our integrity. Use the budget as a management tool, every month; check real expenses against the budget. Finally, delegate but verify - you ultimately remain responsible. And above all, remember - God is our Source."
He could speak from experience and with authority, as he was managing director for Gypsum Industries, one of the top companies on the JSE at his retirement. During that time, he was a founder member of the CSF (Christian Service Foundation) that cared for the destitute living on the mine dumps in Johannesburg.
When he retired, the faith-based company ran two hospitals with an annual budget of R19-million. His management approach was, "Get it done."
All this wealth of experience Fraser generously shared with his new friends in George, the reverends Johan van der Merwe and Michiel Burger, and the chief surgeon of the George Hospital, Dr Ben Emmink. Together they founded the present-day Bethesda, still operating on 1,8 hectares of land at 22 Beer Street in Rosemoor, "purchased" for R1 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oudtshoorn.
When Bishop Adams asked Fraser whether CMSR would care for the orphans at St Mary's - that was facing closure - and the Aids-infected and affected in society, Fraser's response was: "It's all there, Bishop, in our written proposal".
That answer and the generosity of the Roman Catholic Church clinched the deal. The promise to Bishop Adams was kept, and the work has subsequently grown to include a sub-acute hospice with 36 beds, which received a five-star grading from Cohasa in 2014.
In 2007 the national departments of social services and of health awarded the CMSR with Best Practice awards. Today a full-time staff of 130 render professional and compassionate care to communities in Thembalethu and further afield in the Southern Cape.
Farming was close to his heart and after retirement he and his wife, Yvonne, farmed for eight years near Winterton in Kwazulu-Natal. Her love for creating beautiful gardens matched his love for farming and he became a clivia breeder.
As with everything, his meticulous research led to him winning numerous Best of Breed prizes at the annual George clivia show, and many friends. He was just as dedicated in his hobby of restoring Jaguar XK 150 models with the able help of Richard Volontiya, his right-hand man of many years.
He also made an invaluable contribution to the Kudu Award winning company, Outeniqua Eco Honey, that won the coveted SANParks award in 2009 for his groundbreaking research which enabled destitute people on the outskirts of the parks to become fully fledged bee farmers in SANParks.
It was one of the joys of his life that Shann, his eldest daughter, wrote the syllabus based on the Agri Seta's Animal Farming course. Her enthusiasm and innate ability to teach greatly contributed to the success of this initiative.
His son, Gordon, says of him, "Dad truly was a father to the whole family. A wonderful role model to us and his grandchildren. As their beloved Gramps, they realised how wise he was and how he was always ready to give them sound advice. I already miss him dearly. He and my mother really loved each other, and she faithfully supported him since his days as a geologist travelling into Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and establishing the most basic of households there in the African bush.
"As one of the top students in physiotherapy in her years at Wits and under scholarship after completing her internship in London, England, she gave up a promising career to join him for an adventure of love in wildest Africa. 100km from Broken Hill, the nearest town, deep in the bush they experienced life, now encapsulated in his novel, The scent of rain, penned in George under permission to introduce a love story not of their own."
He leaves behind Yvonne, to whom he was married 63 years, his three children Shann, Gordon and Vivienne, a daughter-in-law Belinda, son-in-law Athol, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
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