Your Mr. Gialerakis (whom you called Mr. G) – my dad – was a young dad.
My earliest memories of my dad are, in fact, of him as a radio broadcaster in Durban, South Africa. I remember him in an SABC recording studio – acting, presenting programs, radio “magazine articles“ (such as they were back in the day) and reading the news.
I remember him going up a crane in Durban’s harbor to interview the crane driver, I remember hearing a recording of his interview with singer Petula Clark, I remember him directing and acting in radio plays. I remember him teaching broadcasting at a drama school in Durban, run by Anne and Harold Freed.
I also remember my dad being younger than anyone else’s dad. A cup-winning hurdler at school, my dad was athletic – fit, fast and incredibly energetic. I spent a great deal of my childhood watching my father race our Great Dane across the sand dunes of Umhlanga Rocks, and as I grew older, I spent a great deal of time racing my dad as we swam out to sea in that great Indian Ocean all us Durbanites so loved. He taught me never to turn my back on a wave, he taught me how to navigate the big waves, and he also tried to teach me how to body surf, but I never could body surf like my father could. I could never catch up with him out at sea – even in his eighties, as he swam out across the Mediterranean Sea with his distinctive, smooth, strong strokes, I couldn’t catch him. That was my dad. To me.
Later, as an English teacher and then headmaster at Carmel College, the Jewish Day School in Durban, my dad clearly and lastingly demonstrated to me the following: what it means to be dedicated. What it means to be committed and totally dedicated to your work – what you give and what you gain from giving yourself entirely to the job you are there to do. I have never, in any walk of life since, encountered anyone so entirely dedicated to their professional life as my father was to being headmaster at Carmel.
Dedicated as he was to being an educator, dedicated to sharing his love of English literature, Shakespeare, poetry and the greatest command of the English language anyone could ever dream of having; dedicated as he was to each and every one of his students, my dad gave himself completely and absolutely to the task of giving the very best to his students that anyone could possibly give.
Not just that. It was personal for my dad. Not a night passed when the phone wouldn’t ring as my father and mother and I would sit down for our evening meal, causing my dad to leave the table to shut himself in his study locked in deep conversation with a parent of one of the children at the school, or at times, even one of the students themselves. These conversations would last a long time. He would come out exhausted, but, should the phone ring again, he wouldn’t hesitate to take the call.
He cared about each and every one of you, his “pupils.” I know that. I witnessed it. I was there. Not just you, not just your parents, not just his staff, not just your education, but what opportunities a good education would offer you all. Your futures. And how proud he was to see how well you have all done.
I’m often told how one of my dad’s greatest gifts was his ability to bring the English language to life for his students. Perhaps this was the actor in him. Just like you who knew him and were taught by him, I experienced my father’s ability to teach and show us all what the great writers, poets and playwrights wanted us to gain from their work, and how to relate what we learned to our own lives on so many levels.
This way, I believe we all learned profound “Life Lessons” – not just classroom lessons – from my dad.
After a minor driving accident, my dad, at 87 years, was admitted to a local hospital on the island of Crete, where he retired. While in this hospital, your Mr. Gialerakis contracted an infection of some kind which took him from us on January 27, 2022. May all that he gave us all stay with us always. May we pass on to those we love the best things he taught us. In this way, my dad will stay alive in us and in the future for a long, long time to come. May his name be a blessing! ■
Note from Steve Linde: Mr. Gialerakis, a beloved principal and mentor to me and thousands of students in Durban, was a man of letters with a velvet voice, a person of passion with so much compassion, a true gentleman and scholar. May his family be comforted.and his memory be forever blessed.