On Saturday, March 3rd at 11 o’clock a group of friends cut a colourful dash as they arrived at Stellenbosch airfield.
Our family was joined by many friends, pilots and lovely people from the neighbourhood who’d learned of Frank after reading a recent newspaper article. Some had only met Frank and Dorise once, yet still wanted to join in. None of us wore black; Frank lived his life in ‘Technicolor’ and that’s how we chose to remember him. The cordial and loving gestures we experienced on all sides were immense.
At a quarter past eleven, heads turned to the resounding ‘Vroooom’ of a Harvard aeroplane taking off, clearing the path for Malaika. She then took off in a little Cessna and circled the airfield for several “rounds of honour” for her Papa – well guided and looked after by Del, the charming Italian flying instructor.
The skies were dark and dramatic; Frank’s mountain was surrounded by black clouds. “Papa” had evidently decided that only his “little one” was to fly for him that day; after Malaika’s safe landing the skies opened and it rained cats and dogs. The flying formations “Missing Man” and “Strikemaster” had to be postponed. Weather conditions are notoriously changeable in the Cape. Our friends had already prepared the club hangar, where we continued our celebrations in the dry.
Our good friend George Lamb summarized Frank and Dorise’s life together in a touching speech. The children’s choir contributed very much in the spirit of Frank: with spontaneity and joy. Friends found this choir at short notice; the local established choir had a prior engagement and was unavailable. What luck! The choir of twenty-three had only been formed three weeks beforehand. When we met three days prior to the great day, they only knew one song, and this was still a little ‘wobbly’! They promised to practice and practice and practice, so that they would know four songs on the day. And so they did.
With eyes like saucers with excitement, it was a wonderful first engagement for them: performing on an airfield with 200 people cheering, followed by a little goodie bag. This was completely in the spirit of Frank, who always liked to encourage children early on in life and to bring out their natural enthusiasm! Together with all the children we released blue and white balloons carrying messages for Frank. The wind took the balloons to his mountain.
The children helped us to transform the day into joy when they started dancing to the jazzy tunes of the Riverboat Jazz Band. This band with their longstanding musicians (the lead guitarist, Vernon, used to be a pilot himself) had enchanted Frank many times before and he had been set on engaging them for the next Hettlich Party. We had to do this for him now. A combination of wonderful tunes, good Cape wine and food improved the overall mood and soon we all started dancing with the children. Soon the sun started smiling down on us again. Many danced with tears in their eyes, but we all agreed: Frank would have thoroughly approved! Frank had a farewell party which matched the way he lived his life - always happy and full of fun according to his credo: “Can you change it? No?! Therefore, keep living…!”
We owe this wonderful day to our friends: Rosi Rodenhurst the brilliant organiser, Jenny Lamb the superb coordinator who came to “report” every morning, Graham Smith and the Flying Club. The van der Taks, Barnards, Schatz, Perkins and Lambs showed great hospitality to our European guests. Helderberg Tours – ‘our Juri’ – did all the transfers. Juri led guests on a wonderful ‘round the cape’ tour. “This is for Doctor Hettlich,” he explained.
Our heartfelt thanks to everyone involved. You all made this farewell and celebration of Frank’s life very special. It was an experience we will never ever forget!