The Life of Frank Hettlich -Tribute by George Lamb given at Stellenbosch Flying Club - March 3rd 2007
Frank had many friends all over the world, a number of them have managed to get here today, and for that we are all pleased. I certainly feel that it is a great honour to make this tribute to Frank, a remarkable man. Well what can you say about someone who keeps about fifty kangaroos jumping around the garden as pets!!!, Obviously a little potty, but we all know that this was just another example of his unique approach to life.
Frank was born in 1941 right in the middle of World War 2. As a child on the other side, at the same time, I know the hardship that all families suffered then. Frank was the youngest of four brothers and he showed his pioneering and adventurist spirit when he was only ten years old, by riding off on his brother’s motor bike. Even worse when he was 12 he jumped into his parents car, started it and slammed it into gear, unfortunately it was reverse and he backed it into their flower shop window. The rest of the family was not amused. In so many ways Frank always remained the young cheeky mischievous 12 year old boy everyone loved.
3- Met Dorise
We make hundreds of decisions every day, yet throughout our entire lives we only make about 5 which change everything; often they seem quite trivial at the time. Probably the most important one for Frank was to rub on some suntan lotion, but where? He was walking in a Park in Germany when a pretty 16 year old, ex Convent girl can you believe ?, who was sunbathing with a friend was attracted enough by Franks lovely long legs to boldly ask him to rub some suntan lotion on her back. He was 22, Dorise's Mum was not over impressed by her young daughter's early catch, but she said "well thank goodness he is at least a Catholic." 4 years later, in 1967 they were married, and a 40 year marriage between two true soul mates began. Well the rest is history as they say. But what a history.
4- Early Marriage
Frank was still in the Army when they married. Their first little apartment didn’t even have a cooker, so typical Frank and Dorise improvised by cooking with an upside down iron!!!!!!! Love conquers everything.Clearly things were in good working order because a year later Claudia was born.After leaving the services Frank started at a Dentistry School in Munster and lived with a little group of students in a Caravan Park. In 1973 Bianca came along. With great celebrations in 1977 Frank got his degree. During this time, good old Mum, ie. Dorises mother had let Dorise and the two girls live in a little cottage she owned in Kleve. Money was very tight at that time but they still managed to have some memorable family holidays in the caravan.
In 1979 Frank renovated an old building in Kleve and started what was to become a highly respected Dental Clinic. Life could not have been all work and no play because two years later little Malaika popped out.Of course with his loving and caring way with people Frank quickly became well established, but it was not until he pleaded with Dorise, the "super economist", to take charge of the money side did they start to make any money!!!!!!!. Who has the gold rules, so I think she has been in charge ever since. As you can imagine Frank had the highest Dental ethics, removing a tooth was always the very last resort- he would say " would you let anyone remove your leg just because it hurts?" and his insistence on good dental hygiene was legendary- he once angrily stuck a mirror into the mouth of a rich and famous horse breeder who had dirty brown smelly teeth and said "would you buy a horse with teeth like that?" That reminds me of Franks wicked sense of humour- As a dentist he enjoyed the joke about the husband who was always arguing and shouting at his wife, but the wife unlike the husband never lost her temper, he said during one of his quieter moments "why don't you ever lose your temper with me” she replied, "I just go and clean the toilet ", " well how does cleaning the toilet stop you getting angry", she replied "I use your toothbrush."
Five years after starting the practice they felt successful enough to buy an old dilapidated Farm on the edge of Kleve. Frank turned architect, and with some creative planning application tactics converted it into a magnificent family home, as everyone who has been there and enjoyed their hospitality, can testify.
Apart from being a talented guitarist, singer and enthusiastic golfer, Frank and Dorise exhibited their compassionate nature, giving freely to many charities, but with little publicity. The latest effort is aiding a new school building project for the under privileged. This charitable endeavour will continue and in Frank's memory Dorise would like us all to make a contribution to the kindergarten, so near to their heart- to be named Franks Heaven, a very fitting tribute.
Franks enthusiasm for flying, like most pilots had lain dormant until the opportunity arose. In 1980 he got his PPL, then bought a Cessna 172, followed by a 210 and finally he got his most beloved Seneca GOMM.Very quickly he showed remarkable flair for this latest and lasting passion.He was not selfish with his time and always desired for the whole family to join him on his exploits. As a family they toured all over Europe, North and South America and even flew to Africa together. Leaving incredible memories for Dorise and the girls, and with Frank's enthusiasm to take photos at every opportunity, they have a great record of these happy days. The greatest journey was in 2003 when Frank and Dorise flew round the globe and so qualified to join the small band of distinguished aviators- "the Earthrounders". What an amazing journey that must have been.Frank truly loved flying and would get GOMMi out of the hangar at every opportunity. On Tuesday evenings before our SFC social nights, , Frank took many friends , around the Cape Peninsular, just before sunset to share this wonderful experience with him.Jenny and I were lucky enough to join Frank and Dorise on a number of fly aways. Last year was to Sutherland who has the biggest and the best telescope in the Southern Hemisphere and the worst golf course. The most memorable journey was when we went to Namibia, the fun started when flew to collect Jenny and Dorise at Cape Town International and Ground directed us to the General Flying Area, but Frank was having none of it. he insisted that we be allowed to collect our VIP's at the main terminal building, it was a sight to behold to see GOMMi wedged between a row of Jumbos.We had a great time in Namibia, visiting Dorises favourite jewellers in Swakopmund, for a little sweetie. Malaika saved us from a fate worse than death when we went on a very early morning Land Rover journey, lasting two hours, in the desert, to go on a sunrise balloon trip. It was sooo cold, and dark and bumpy, but Malaika had managed to get us some blankets, thank goodness. On our return we joined up with a group of SFC members at the Uppington FC Fly In, which included a trip to the Gemsbok Game Park, and a magical evening dinner on a boat on the Orange River. I remember we had about a dozen planes flying back together with, in Frank's opinion, too much radio chat, mostly lead by Craig, Frank said laughingly did Craig work for the BBC before he came here?. What memories.Frank's success as a pilot was in no small part due to his attention to detail, he never took a short cut, or missed a check- just not in his nature. Once he took the girls to see the Whales near Hermanus and with his typical enthusiasm went very close to the sea and the plane got covered in a salt water spray. This was during a hose pipe ban, and Frank did not really approve of anyone breaking this sensible regulation. However, he would happily break any regulation he thought was bureaucratic nonsense. Since he could not bear the thought of GOMMi with any corrosive salt on her, he furtively went to the club and gently sprayed her clean again, and he said no one would know, Claudia said it was so funny when they pushed the plane inside and they could see the outline of the plane in a big pool of water. Frank was horrified and they jumped into the car and quickly drove off. We all believed that this great man was invincible, but sadly it was not to be. But we know that he left us exactly the way most aviators would choose.
Frank once sent me the following so very apt quotation:
“Life is measured not by the number of breaths we take but by the number of breathtaking moments we experience"
On that basis Frank Hettlich clocked up about 150 years.
Please let's have a minutes silence now, in memory of a truly remarkable man.
Ps- A donation box is available for us to contribute to Franks Heaven and also please sign the Memorial Book.
Pps- On a very personal note I would like to add, that now Dorise is on the market again, I know that she has already had one offer, but politely turned it down. Saying she wanted something younger. I would like to toss my hat in the ring, I can understand her turning Ted Perkins down, after all he is about 110, but what about me?, I am a sprightly 72. Sorry about this Jenny but Dorise is at least as good looking as you, and she can cook!!!!!!
Footnote- On the 28th February at sunset, Dorise, Claudia, Bianca, Malaika and Robin had a private ceremony on the Helderberg Mountain. Frank's ashes were scattered, and he will be forever part of that awesome mountain.