For anybody who doesn’t know me I was raised by my mother in Uitenhage, South Africa – a small town near Port Elizabeth. Andrew Arries was friends with my grandparents, and later everyone just called him, Uncle. For as long as I can remember he lived with us, in the old house at the back of Sass Street.
As my grandparents died in early 1980s, I now see that Uncle was a surrogate father to my own mother and her sister Brenda, who passed away in 1995. He was the rock of ages because we could always depend on him. Even in his 80s he was more often looking after us than we did him. Always independent, he was the epitome of self reliance.
When I was about 10 years old he took me along to Sunday School at the Dutch Reformed Church. When there was no lift from Dominee Esterhuizen we walked about 6km to church without question. In 1996 I celebrated my 21st birthday and graduated from university on the same weekend. My own father could not be there, so Uncle stepped in.
The last time he visited me and my cousins in Johannesburg was in 2008 for almost three months. I remember booking his flight back to Port Elizabeth. He took time to visit and stay with everyone including my mother’s brother and sister who lived there for > 20 years. My group of cousins including Alberton and Bernice Murray took him to the OR Tambo airport on a Sunday. At the boarding gate he almost refused to leave because he was unusually emotional. It was like he was saying goodbye to all his grandchildren for the last time.
Each of us was touched by Uncle in a big or small way that lived at Sass Street. I remember him mostly for this quality: integrity. He was truly a man who led by example. An example we can only imitate now that he’s passed away. RIP Andrew Arries 1926-2014, Uncle to many and oupa to a few who’s lives he directly impacted.