hilda bernstein, rusty bernstein

Obituary by Pat Bernstein

I am obviously not pleased to be speaking at my fathers funeral, however, I am very proud to talk briefly for my brother Keith and I. Before I do, I'd like to thank those of you who have travelled a very long way to be with us today. I know it means a lot to all my family.

Many things have been said about Rusty, today and earlier this week in both the South African and UK national media. All of them much more eloquent than anything I could say, and much of it, I’m sure you know, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. However, nothing has been heard of him as a father and what he gave to his children.

Children are always proud of their parents, whatever they do in life. For Keith and I, of course we’re proud of what he did; what he helped to achieve. But what we’ll always remember about him, is that while setting extremely high standards for himself in all aspects of his life, he never imposed his own standards on us. Nor did he judge us by his standards, or expect us to make the same commitments he did.

He remembered a birthday of mine once, and sent me an IOU. Something you might say any caring parent would do. However, not many parents do so, where the pen used to write the IOU is an illegal possession, highly valued; and where smuggling written material out of prison is sure to lead to further penalties. And even fewer do so, while in prison facing a charge of treason, where the penalty could be death.

Despite all of this, he remembered my birthday. That’s the sort of father he was.

The one thing I know Keith and I will not miss; is the worried telephone call saying, “I was just finishing an article on the computer, when I must have pressed a wrong key. My file’s disappeared from the screen and now it’s gone.” We would tell him; I’m sure Keith more patiently than me, that although it was not visible, it was definitely still there, in the computers memory.

Rusty, like his computer files, may not now be visible. However, I know that he is still there in the memory; as a loving, extremely generous and yet humble father. Keith and I hope that some small part of him, his integrity, honesty, commitment to purpose, and humility; lives on in us, and in our own children.