Dr Edward Cyril Humphrey Silk (1947)
EULOGY: Submitted by his son Roland
Dad was a special person; full of love true virtue and patience, he was born on 9 February 1929 in Bulawayo, in what was then Rhodesia.
He came with his parents to South Africa when he was about six months old.
He grew up in Durban, attended high school at Michaelhouse and did his first year of University at Rhodes. He lost a year of formal study due to rheumatic fever, and later changed to the University of Natal.
His graduate work was done at the University of the Witwatersrand.
In about 1955, during his studies, he went to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell, England, on a Commonwealth fellowship. While he was there, he completed the work for his PhD in crystal physics, which was awarded in absentia in 1959.
While at Harwell, Dad stayed in Buckland house which they used to house overseas scientists. It was there that he met mom in 1959. She had received her PhD in physics from The Johns Hopkins University in the USA the year before and held a post-doctoral position at Harwell.
They married in October 1959, and honeymooned in the south of France. They were both offered positions by the Physics Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, and so moved to Sunny South Africa in 1960. Dad continued in the Department of Physics until his retirement in about 1994. Although he did not publish research articles, (only because he did not want to be tied up with the hectic schedule that a professorship would have brought). Dad was a devoted and valued teacher, mentor and friend to many of his students and fellow faculty.
He has kept in touch with several of his students to this day. He continued to do physics for a long time after his retirement, in consultation with a physicist whom he had known at Wits who had moved to the USA.
At home dad often took over domestic tasks in order to allow mom to do both physics and theology as well as to run the household. Even though Dad was a night owl and mostly worked or read until the wee hours of the morning, they always ate lunch and supper together at the diningroom table.
Last Palm Sunday, mom brought home a palm cross for Dad. He kept it by his place at the dining table for the rest of his time on earth, Even making particular note of it the night before going in to hospital. Dad and Mom were due to celebrate their 50th wedding university this year.
One of Dads many strong points was his absolute religious conviction that all we do on this earth is toward the next life, for him doing the right thing was not optional. This I believe was the cornerstone of his guidance to us children. When he began his studies at Wits, he and his mother chose to attend St Mary's Cathedral. He has been a member ever since that time, faithfully attending divine service week by week until he became physically unable to do so.
Although he did not hold any official positions in the Church, he always encouraged and supported mom.
If I may be so bold as to say he and Mom were blessed with three wonderful children: John, myself Roland and Carol. Dad made a point of getting to know each of us children as individuals, over the years From time to time he would take us on 'one on one' holidays in order to give us each a special time of undivided attention.
Since mom is an American, we children are American by birth even though we were all born in Johannesburg. We all now live in the USA: John and myself in Atlanta Georgia and Carol in Grand Lake which is in the mountains above Denver, Colorado. It has been very hard on us that we have been separated by so many thousands of miles, unable to visit, talk and help as the years have passed. But both John and Carol had been able to visit and spend quality time with dad over the last two years. I had not seen him in 6 years but was blessedly given an opportunity to have a long and lucid conversation with him the night before he passed.
John happened to be working in Denver at the time of dad's passing. Thus, amazingly, John and Carol were together in the same room when I called with the sad news.
His greatest interest outside of Physics and family was wild life. Dad LOVED Nature … When he was still a student at Wits, he accompanied the Professor of Physics and visitors, Sir Lawrence and Lady Bragg to the Kruger Park. His holidays there and to many other bush destinations continued once he had returned to South Africa with mom. Although he preferred reserves where it was possible to walk in the open veld, to those like the Kruger Park where visitors are confined to their cars most of the time.
Dad was extremely knowledgeable about the animals ...and the plants … and everything to do with nature.
Carol recalls the times dad and her would pick up a Fontana Pie after Sunday Church and drive off to explore some new area. But remembers especially her rambles with Dad in the hills of Mondeor before their development. Carol believes that it was Dad who gave her, her love for nature which has been her saviour and sanity throughout all her life.
Dad loved his garden and took particular pains to keep it indigenous. He loved to walk around it every day inspecting the growth and development of his little piece of 'The Bush"
Dad had books, books and more books on absolute every subject. this testified to his wide scope of interests. There were so many bookshelves in our house and up and down the passages, that over the last year Mom could hardly get Dads wheelchair down the passage.
He loved and cherished his collection of National Geographic magazines which would arrive every month. We as children loved these too and would have to wash our hands before we were allowed to read them.
My strongest memory of Dad is that he was a nocturnal person. When I was living in the cottage for a few years, I would often get home late at night to find him still up. I would join him for tea and talk with him till the wee hours of the morning on every subject you could dream of.
I do believe that dads consistency of character, devotion to principal, lack of anger, patience, and his always positive outlook on life were the traits that built a wide clear road for all of us.
John who unfortunate was unable to attend today writes: I'm sorry I can't be there to say my final farewell in person, however I am with you in spirit. As you may now know we were as close as we could be to each other at the moment of dad's passing proving it was God's will, it couldn't have been planned any better. May you rest in peace.....
We had some really special times together and some of the top memories that will remain with me for ever are: The South West African caravan holiday, the "one on one" train trip we took to Michaelhouse School and Durban and setting up Electric Trains in the lounge
Lots of Love forever John, Laurel, Kevin and Bruce
I would like to thank all of you here and those who sent condolences but were unable to attend. We have received condolences from England, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as from various parts of South Africa.
Also our sincerest thanks to Elizabeth Sekele who gave Dad 30 years of devoted service.
Dad is survived by Mary Jean (Mom to us), John and his wife Laurel, their boys Kevin and Bruce, myself and my wife Sharon and our two boys James and Ryan as well as Carol. He will be sorely missed and well remembered.