In Memory

Jack Shapiro

Jack Shapiro arrived at DHS at the start of our fifth form year in 1960, when his family moved to Natal from Johannesburg.  He soon became popular among his classmates for his confident, cheerful personality and irreverent humour. Jack repeated a year and in 1962 became a school prefect and Blackmore's head prefect.

After school Jack attended the University of Witwatersrand and then entered the financial industry in Johannesburg,  where he had a long and successful career as a stockbroker. Colleages there recall him as an ebullient, larger-than-life personality who knew everybody and was known by everybody. Jack married Denise Seeff in 1969, and they had two daughters.  He was a keen golfer.

Jack became known as a great raconteur and was an obvious choice to entertain us at the 50 Year Reunion in Durban in June 2011. He delivered an energetic and brilliant speech at the grand reunion dinner, evoking hoots of laughter and sustained applause from his classmates.

Most did not realise that Jack was not well at the time. In fact, special accomodation was arranged for him at our reunion hotel because he had difficulty walking or climbing stairs. Jack had suffered heart problems in previous years and had a pacemaker installed a few months before the reunion. In mid-2012 he was advised that he risked a major stroke if he did not have surgery to implant stents in narrowed arteries. He underwent the operation successfully on July 5 but unfortunately sustained a fatal heart attack the followng day, July 6.  

His close friend Lee Irvine tells us that Jack understood the dangers of the surgery and characteristically made what he knew might be farewell calls to his friends before the operation, and prepared a message to be read to them in the event that he did not survive. Please see Lee's tribute to Jack below, and the further classmate comments that follow.

Here is a photograph of Jack as most of us will always remember him, holding forth at our 50th Reunion celebrations.




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17/07/12 03:23 PM #1    

Lee Irvine

Further to Ian Robertson's obituary on Jack above, may I add my bit.

Jack Bernard Shapiro's personality was such that very few people knew much about "the inner Jack".  For example, when he was 9, he lost his father Gerson, who was a DHS old boy and an attorney.  Gerson's brother was also an old boy and Dux in his final year.

Prep School at Saxonwold Primary was followed by a short high school stint at King David, after which he was sent to DHS to see him through his years of puberty.  And it worked.  As Ian wrote, Jack's outgoing and forthright manner made an immediate impact and he settled in quickly.

Jack was a keen rugby player and on the sports field he made the 2nd team hooker berth his own. But the pinnacle was his appointment as school prefect and Head Boarder Prefect in 1962, an amazing achievement considering his relatively short period at the school.

After matriculating, Jack returned to Johannesburg and enrolled at Wits University, where he worked through his CA before encountering a snag at passing the Board examinations, which further extended his student tenure.  The advantage in this was that for several years he became a legend as the University Cheerleader when intervarsity rugby was at its peak.

Articles with Scher Abrahamson preceded his first real job as Accountant for the Tollman Hotel Group, where he spent several productive years.

During this period, he married Denise Seeff and together they produced two daughers, Carol Ann and Gayle. Jack's priorities changed and he became a devoted family man.

He accepted an offer to join and run of the Seeff family businesses, a furniture factory, and he did so for about 10 years, until the unions got the better of him and he closed the doors in 1987.

At that time, he was a client of a stockbroking firm, Davis Bokum Hare, and he jumped at the chance of joining them when they offered him a job. This was the beginning of a very successful 25 year career as an equity trader. His ability to "see through the noise" and make decisive and accurate calls enhanced his reputation.

Jack took up golf at the age of 50 at Houghton Golf Club and became a Committee Member, before joining Wanderers Golf Cllub when Houghton's transformation began. He played more and more regularly as the years went by and became a mid-teen handicapper.  Neat and organized, Jack was the designated scorekeeper and  his scorecards were always works of art.

Gregarious in the extreme and a wonderful if risque story teller, Jack amassed a huge number of friends.  But essentially, Jack was a private person, carefully guarding his privacy, his family, and a small group of friends.

With Jack, what you saw was what you got.  He was direct, to the point, and cynically outspoken if the occasion demanded it.  He did not suffer fools or pretention gladly. But underneath it all was his humorous side, his easy laugh lightening many a serious moment.  He had great charisma and he lightened up the room as he entered.

Behind his brusque exterior lurked an extremely sensitive and caring individual.  He supported charities and people undergoing hard times without fanfare.  He always had a caring ear (an example of which is that he became a good friend to my two sons, keeping in touch with them and offering sage advice when opportune).

And then there was his love for his rock Denise and his daughters, their husbands, and his grandchildren.  Who will forget him choking up during his father-of-the-bride speeches at Carol Ann and Gayle's fact at our table we had wagers as to how long he would last before breaking down. The shortest estimate won.  He was so proud of his girls and how they had married well and produced such lovely children. His relationship with Denise was remarkable. He made light of his health issues to lighten her burden, but she is an impressively strong person and her demeanour at the funeral and subsequent prayers was amazing.

Jack endured his dodgy health and the many reparative procedures with uncomplaining stoicism, smoking his Villeger cigars as a token of his obstinate defiance.  He seemed to know that his time on earth was reaching an end, and in his usual methodical and neat manner he prepared meticulously.  An example was the message and legacy he bequeathed to the Wanderers Golf Club, to be read to the members on his death. This was done the day after his passing, amidst huge emotion.

Jack crammed a lot into his 66 years and he has left us an impressive and lasting legacy. His void will take a long time to fill. I will miss him terribly, but at least I have many happy memories to help me along, one of which was our trip the the 50th reunion last year.



17/07/12 05:33 PM #2    

Godfrey Mockè

What  beautiful tributes to the late Jack Shapiro - thank you Ian and Lee! 

Sadly, I missed out in not knowing Jack at all - him being a late-entry in 1960 (my first year in Matric) a non-swimmer and a Joburg boykie to-boot, yet such was my loss as he clearly made his mark in life and has left a magnificent legacy which makes me immensely proud to be able to acknowledge him as a DHS 'Old Boy' and one of our "own".  My thoughts and prayers go out to Jack's immediate family as they grieve their huge loss. Godfrey S. Mockè (VI S, 1960 & 1961)


18/07/12 01:28 AM #3    

Anthony Crosby

 Good morning.   It was with much sadness that I read the sad passing of Jack Shapiro.   As normal I awoke at 5-30am (Sydney Australia) and prior to going down to Balmoral beach for my morning swim, I checked my emails.  What had started as a lovely clear Sydney morning suddenly changed. I did not swim today.  I sat quietly and reflected on memories of our larger that life friend. Jack was one of those special people who left a positive impression on you whenever in his company.   


Lee and Ian have said it all and there is nothing more to add.   One thing I am so please about is that I made the trip to Durban for the reunion.  I recall debating wether to go or not.  How pleased I am that I went


Fortunately I spent a lot of time with Jack over that “Special” weekend.  He took me out to Old Boys Club before the cocktail party on the Friday night for, as Jack put it, “A couple of Heart starters”!!


I guess there is no secret that we are now all playing “The Back nine” so the important things to remember is to stay in touch and try to be there for each other.  You can move all over this great world but the special bond that exists between DHS old boys can never be broken.     Jack we will all miss you terribly.   To your wonderful wife and family our sincere condolences.

As Jack would have said.  If there is no door, Build one and then Kick it down.      RIP Jack Shariro


18/07/12 11:15 AM #4    

David Sawers

It was with a heavy heart that I read of Jack's death. Lee, Ian and Ant have said all that I could have about this extraordinary, larger than life personality, and a lot more eloquently. He and I trained the Drum Majorettes at Natal and Wits Universities respectively and I fondly remember the year he brought his girls to Durban to participate in our Rag procession. I don't know about the girls but Jack and I certainly had a helluva weekend. So long my old buddy, so grateful that we were able to hook up again last year.

Dave Sawers 

18/07/12 11:52 AM #5    

Christopher Harris

I  just wish to post my thanks that I knew someone who made a difference to the lives of so many.  At School, he was an inspiration.  Judging by the comments made so far, that continued tenfold when he moved on.  Those who spent time with him in the past 50 years must have learnt a lot from him, so a way to keep his memory going is to honour him by living life as he would do.  Shalom, Jack.

Chris Harris

25/07/12 04:51 PM #6    

Christopher Makepeace

Just read an email about Jack's passing and was surprised at, then, understanding about my choking up at the news.  He was one of the most likeable and funny boys at the Boarders' meal-times.  His self-assurance meant he suffered none of the slights and tribulations that might befall other late arrivers, on the contrary, his jokes and observations were eagerly heard and laughed at.  Only once do I remember some funny just fell flat; he saw the weak smiles and raised his hands and said "Oh well..." and smiled.  I was impressed.

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