A life slips away
There is only one sure thing in life and that is everyone is going to die. Sadly this is going to come true for my beloved Father in Law when his family turns off his life support system tomorrow and he takes his final flight. They are meeting with the doctor tomorrow morning to tell him that it was their Dad’s wish that he didn’t want to be kept alive with machines.I’m positive he is going to be flying somewhere as it was his life long passion. The following is how I first met him and what ensued.
Having left the Rhodesian air force as Wing Commander Peter Knobel on the transfer of power to Robert Mugabe and the re-naming of the country as Zimbabwe. Peter K as he was always known by the legions of people he taught to fly, bought a small holding where he began farming sheep, goats, and rabbits. A mercilessly particular man, with him everything had to be done the right way or not at all. So he was always using his very bright mind to find this. Naturally he went on a sheep course to find out more. Little did he know that one of the people running this was a personal farming friend of mine. None other than Frikkie Buitendag, champion sheep breeder and character of note.
During the course the two of them became firm friends, and when the course finished they went to have a few drinks in a pub. Now Peter K drank very little. For some reason his youngest daughter joined them. She spent most of the night berating and nagging her Dad about one thing or the other. Eventually exasperated, Peter K turned to her and said:”What you need is someone who is six foot tall and deaf.”
Frikkie eavesdropping heard this and was highly amused, so chimed in with: “I know someone like that.”
So he arranged for them to visit his farm the following Sunday for lunch. Then the damn devil invited me over for lunch. The long and short of this is, Peter K’s daughter was smitten. Well, she was, and a great romance began.
Then one day a long time after at Peter K’s farm I had to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In all honesty I was petrified of asking him, but I did. He immediately turned to me and shook my hand. Thus begun or had all ready begun a lifetime friendship. I must add it was one of the highlights of my life.
Probably the best light aircraft pilot in the world.
Now Peter K flew a hundred and sixty eight different types of aircraft in his life. That has to be something special?
Personally, I left Zimbabwe in 1984 and went to live in South Africa. A year later I had my own farm there and a couple of years later Peter K also left and came to live on my second house on the farm. So I actually knew him very well. I have seen all of his air logs and an astonishing amount of flying hours he had put in too. I also saw all his military reviews by the top brass and he had also worked on ‘ComOps’ (Combined Operations), during the Rhodesian war. One thing stood out. They all said the same thing. Which was he was a pilot of ‘exceptional’ ability, but found it hard to listen to authority. Touché, and I had to laugh.
My most abiding memory of him considering all this was when we were watching Andre Agassi play tennis in some tournament on the television. This was when Agassi was still in the long hair and colourful clothing mode. During the break, a quiz came up which asked: “What type of racquet does Andre Agassi use?”
Not missing a beat and turning to me with raised eyebrows, Peter K said: “A pink one?” Who wouldn’t laugh?
So Peter you have led an exceptional life and even more than your flying you have raised an exceptional family. Your two daughters, your son. Who have given you eight grandchildren and one great, grandchild. Whom all of course have loved you to bits. So because many of us can’t be there with you at this sad time, I have chosen a poem for you for your final farewell.
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless falls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.”
John Gillespie Magee.
A tribute for Peter K.
Now Peter had a life long love of the Spitfire and was making a downsized replica of it but he never finished it sadly. Since his death Nelair in Nelspruit have been working on it and it went on show today. Sadly minus the engine.