That’s definitely one of the privileges of being a pastor’s and missionary’s kid: Sitting at table with pastors, teachers, bishops and other friends of the holy Christian church. One of these friends was Onkel Siegfried Karl Hermann Damaske (*25.5.1932 +28.6.2017 We children would always address him as “uncle Siegfried”). Together with O.Manfred Nietzke (“Roodepoort” near Ventersdorp, W.Transvaal/NW) he was a regular guest at my parents home in Enhlanhleni during pastoral conventions, synods or similar gatherings in Enhlanhleni near Pomeroy, KZN. Probably was partly because my mother learnt seTswana with the Damaskes as a young bride in Botshabelo near Lichtenburg, NW and Nietzke was my father’s successor on the mission station “Roodepoort”. So they were brought together in the early years of their respective ministries amongst the Tswana people of the W.Transvaal. The fact that they kept visiting each other many years afterwards goes a long way to prove the friendly footing they continued to share even into retirement. O.Siegfried told his children, that those visits in Enhlanhleni to my parents place were his favorite memories of his missionary’s life. His daughter shared that with me last Sunday and I was very happy to hear it, because I too have good memories of some of those visits.
Pretty soon after my parents were moved to serve at the Seminary in Enhlanhleni in 1965 I was put in boarding school at Uelzen near Ebenezer/Glencoe, KZN. From the soccer field looking across the tennic courts you could see Lenge Mountain in the S.West. This was only about 20km N.West of Enhlanhleni. So it was still within some sort of eye contact – something like looking at the same moon in Murrayhill near Hammanskraal or in Oberursel i.T . Most conferences were probably held during the week, when I was away at school, yet there were some visits of O.Siegfried Damaske and Nietzke that I didn’t miss because of school, but joyfully recall even now.
Siegfried – or “uJaazi” because of his big overcoat worn in the chilly winters up on the Highveld – was also tasked by the church to take care of the brass instrument. He was the “Posaunengeneral” of the church, director, conductor, technician, plumber, driver and handyman: “factotum”! In this capacity, he regularly dame to check up on those trumpets, trombones, tubas etc, service and fix the instruments at the Seminary, which had it’s own student choir and obviously enough broken parts now and again.
Like Nietzkes the Damaskes would also pass by Enhlanhleni during their holidays on their way to House Bleckmar in Shelly Beach, KZN. Siegfried was somewhat more sensitive to the noise of his family, so he would sit up front next to one of his driving children – wearing headphones to expel the noise and reading his own stuff on those long trips. Obviously visitors like that bring along little gifts and presents too as signs of appreciation and thanksgiving. Damaskes would bring along home-made marmalade and other highlights from Rustenburg, N.Transvaal. When sitting at our long table – 9 Damaskes and 11 Webers (that’s not counting the grannies!) there must have been quite a commotion, but lots of fun and turbulent joy no doubt. When one of the Damaskes girls reached for the marmalade, the 2nd eldest – Ruth, who was a godchild of my mother – called out excitedly: “Watch out Marianne, that’s ours!” The hilarity could hardly stop!
Later during my vacations as student years Markus Nietzke was with me in Enhlanhleni and for some reason Siegfried Damaske was there too. Perhaps it was “Posaunenfest” in Uelzen or Greytown. Then both Nietzkes and Damaske would also sleep over at our place. Big families, big fun and never ending excitement amongst young and old during these weekends and church holidays. In the evening and after supper my father would serve some kind of fruit punch mixed with this and that – lemonade, champagne and some late harvest too. The concoction brewed in a big ceramic bowl was then served to all the party in earthenware mugs from Tamaga/Botswana or from Linda near Port Shepstone, KZN – if memory serves me right. There were salt sticks, cheese crackers and some sweets surely. Now as the party was going from strength to strength and the din rose to resound invitingly across the valley, Markus challenged O.Siegfried: “I’ve heard somewhere sometime that you’re not too bad on the piano yourself!” Well, O.Siegfried really was a remarkably gifted musician and proficient soloist on the piano in his own right – playing Liszt, Rachmaninoff and off course Bach as part of his impressive repertoire. We others joined in the teasing, entreating and inviting along the lines of: “It can’t be, but if it is, come show us!” After more than a fair bit of enticing O.Siegfried reluctantly made his way to our piano, meticulously moved the bench this way and that, adjusted its height and angle just right, made some rather intimidating clicking noises with his fingers, stretching and loosening them up before hitting those keys with unexpected vigour and then just letting rip, you’ve just had to see it. What a delight to listen to! We were all overwhelmed and even a bit stunned at his virtuosity and this musical glamour enfolding right there in our commons. Markus however, was not finished. He expected some more. Somewhat provocatively he poked O.Siegfried: “In younger years I think, you played that a bit faster, didn’t you?” Well, the pianist was in his element and not going to be held back any longer. Again he bound away and let his fingers fly over the ebony and ivory, making the most beautiful noise. His huge head was pounding away and his whole body was engaged in this dynamic flair and exuberance right there in our flabbergasted midst. Markus prompted him on, questioning his talents and O.Siegfried taking up the cue and speeding it up 4 or 5x more times still until he finally got up from that musical chair and started dancing like a raving mix of northern Valkyrie, mediterranean daemon, foreign dervish, local Tokoloshe and fantastic Rumpelstilzchen – with us all around cheering, clapping and stamping and laughing our heads off until eventually his critical challenger relented and together we could all relax, lay back and contemplate what a stunning performance we just witnessed coming to such an impressive climax – very much alive right there in the bush. A definite highlight in my childhood memories this missionary celebration and festivity in the house of my parents!
Rustenburg was a good distance to the north of our home Enhlanhleni – some good 9 to 10 hours drive. Often O.Siegfried would arrive late and long after dark. We would eat supper (More correctly “Abendbrot!”) at 18h00 sharp. Not much flexibility there. Typical routine of an old teacher and a full-time housewife. Now O.Siegfried arrived sometime after our evening devotion. The table had been cleared not only of the books, but also of all the good food too. My parents invited the late arrival to join them for a bite, but he adamantly refused: “No thank you. I’m really ok. Don’t need anything. Please, don’t go to any trouble!” However, in the style his namesake Lenz had popularized in “So zärtlich war Suleyken” his hosts continued to badger him: “Come on – just a little taste of the fresh bread. Together with the homemade liver sausage it’s nice. Please feel free.” They didn’t want to be accused of Lenz’s example of a bad host’s sin having his guests go to bed or home hungry, because “Es ist nicht genug genötig worden!” My father would normally excuse himself with the other custom: “Einladen und nötigen ist zu viel verlangt!” Yet knowing O.Siegfried, they continued to bid him to feel free and eat a bite. So finally, he relented, sat down and started eating. Finishing off the Leberwurst, he asked my mom: “What do you still have?” In the end, he finished off the delicious bread, the other bakes and fries, the cooked meats and fresh vegetables, the cheeses, jams and puddings. My parents were very happy that he had not come hungry, but really only to try out this and that. How would they have coped if he was really hungry?
After the 2 World War O.Siegfried (centre at the top) studied theology together with my father-in-law Günter Scharlach (centre with the wollen cappy), Georg Schulz (top left) and Johannes Junker (with the ax) pictured above. I don’t know the other two on the right top and bottom. The latter is the only one still alive of this 2nd course under P.Friedrich-Wilhelm Hopf in Bleckmar near Bergen in Lower-Saxony. Except for Schulz they all were supposed to preach in the St. Peter and Paul’s congregation at Lüneburg in N.Natal as the local pastor Schwarz was long overdue for retirement and they were looking for a suitable replacement. Until late in his life O.Siegfried was still jokingly blaming a marmite sandwich for failing to secure this calling in those early days for himself and having him live in the barren stretches of the NW instead of the flourishing Dumbe valley and hills.
Still, he and his dear wife Eva remained dedicated supporters of the Lutheran church and mission even in the last years. The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane remained a beneficiary of their monthly donations and special gifts to their very end and even long after he himself could no longer come to attend the Seminary Open Days, conventions and conferences. When my father-in-law passed away last September, he complained that he had to outlive his brothers and his dear wife by so many months and years. It seems, that our dear God and loving Father in heaven heard his plea and had mercy on him, calling him home to his heavenly abode being old and full of days! So, even if we miss this old musician and missionary serving our Lord here amongst us on earth, we praise God for all he was to us here and commit him into his fatherly hands to rest in peace until our final consummation on Judgement Day and the visible manifestation of God’s glory in eternity. I’m sure, we old pastors and missionaries, bishops and teachers will enjoy the illustrious company of the prophets and apostles of old, because they too will call us brothers and friends – just like our Lord IX does – when we sit at his table with those from East and West, North and South. It will by far surpass what Terry Jacks sang about: “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun…”
Here are some photos from O.Siegfried’s work in the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa back in those days: