He is my hero and most of what is good and honorable, like the Last Man, Standing, principle, If at all visible in me, I assuredly inherited from this man, my dad, George Nelson Hartslief, or as I called him:”Chum” Seriously, I called him CHUM, It was my mom’s pet name for him, and me being the firstborn, it was considered cute initially until two younger brothers and a baby sister parroted it, often, much to the dismay of both parents, when strangers, unfamiliar with the circumstances and that it had nothing whatsoever to do with disrespect, remarked about it.
He was a police officer, a Major in the South-African Police force and one whose subordinates would and actually had marched into a fair likeness of hell, for him, during the “Bush war” in the ’70s through ’80s against communism and the military wing of the A.N.C., Nkhonto We Sizwe” we had to defend our constitution against Soviet, Chinese, Palestinian and Cuban forces on the South-African borders with Namibia Angola and Zimbabwe, (I fought in the same war for 3 years as well, though never under his command.) It was kind of like a mini-3rd world war.
As a kid of 15 in the 1933 world depression, my dad was cast adrift by his mom, his only possessions, the clothes on his back and a Bible. As in many cases, back then, many parents, worldwide, simply could not cope, with providing for him and his 4 younger siblings on his stepdad’s meager wage.
Dodging, child protection officials, present even in those days, he became a builder’s laborer having been found by the owner of a contracting company, who took pity on him and offered him a room, meals and a “job”, after finding him asleep and almost frozen to death, one chilly winter’s morning, 120 miles from his home in Bethlehem, in the Free-State province.
He rose through the ranks until he became a highly skilled brick-layer. His “guardian” soon noticed his ability of quickly grasping the skills of the trade, such as blueprint reading and correct mortar mixtures the owner helped him join the police academy at 18 years old feeling that he was not functioning at his full potential and in spite of having skipped several school levels from age 15. He borrowed and after studying the final entry-level exam lectures for only six days before writing, then going on, to complete Police cadet academy courses and finally graduating as a fully fledged police officer.
He died on 14th July 1980 at 53 years leaving my mom of 50 behind, who never married again, staying fiercely loyal until her death, 25 years later in 2005.