As told by his son Mark Budow
Gerald, Gerry to many of his friends, Gig to his beloved Sonia, and Birdie to his 12 grandchildren and many great grandchildren was born, Yirma in Dulyanov Poland on April 18 1927. His parents left the pogroms in search of a safer future and together with several of his mother’s seven sisters and their young families made the move to South Africa. Their surname was changed by an immigration clerk to Budow. The Budows settled in a small town called Debe Nek, opening a general dealer store for the local population. The family home was very basic with the toilet being a traditional outhouse in the garden, surrounded by citrus trees.
Tragedy struck the family on Gerald’s 11th birthday when Moshe, his father, was swept away in a flash flood trying to push their car across a usually dry river bed. His bereaved mother Esther was left to raise four young children. Despite advice to the contrary, she stayed on to manage the store by herself sending the children to boarding school at Dale College where the antisemitism they had tried to escape, raised its ugly head.
Gerald was accepted to Medical School at UCT from where he graduated in 1950. He met Sonia at a Paul Jones dance session having noticed her across the room for what was indeed, love at first sight. Throughout his entire fifty plus years of medical practice, Sonia was his most avid supporter, accompanying him first on a two-year fellowship in paediatrics to England and then to set up home in Surrey Street, Goodwood just metres from the home and practice of Solly Smiedt for whom he worked for about twenty years, before becoming a full partner together with Solly and Dave Saperson.
Like most of his GP peers, Gerald practised 'cradle to grave' medicine. He would do all the regular antenatal visits, deliver babies at any hour of the day and night and care for these children and their families over a career that spanned forty years. It was not uncommon for him to deliver babies of mothers at whose birth he had been present. His main love remained paediatric medicine and he ended every visit in the clinic or on a home visit, with a chewy Sugus sweet- allowing the child to choose a colour from a metallic tube he carried with him as part of his medicine bag.
House visits were very much the order of the day, going out before morning and after evening clinics, which made for a minimum twelve hour working day, four days a week. It was also the time of day to spend quality time with his three children, Marilyn, Mark and Tessa. After walking home from the surgery, usually one of the children would join him for what would be life-defining visits that unintentionally exposed them to the brutal inequalities of life in South Africa in the seventies and early eighties. From the comfortable vantage point of the passenger seat in his Mercedes or BMW and with LM radio in the background they would be exposed to children their age, playing soccer on a patch of sand outside tin shanty houses.
Their best friends were Hymie and Sheila Cotton, Hymie a local chemist and one of a handful of people who could decipher Gerald’s infamous handwriting. Postcards the children would receive from occasional trips abroad would be taken to Hymie for translation.
His social life was very much in the community he served, being a founder member and later president of the Goodwood bowls club and a long-term member of the local Lions organisation where he too served a term as President. He was also a participant in the first Balint group for GPs held in Cape Town.
In 1999 he stopped working in the practice, but soon resumed work as an employee of the Cape Town City Council where he worked a few days a week at a clinic in Athlone. It was here that he had to face the many challenges of managed care as he was often told by unqualified managers which tests were permitted and which medications he could prescribe.
At the age of eighty he finally retired. He and Sonia came on aliyah in 2010. Sonia passed away in December 2019. Some three years later, on March 10th, Gerald passed away surrounded by his three loving children at their home at Protea Village.