The Final Chapter

I’ve been meaning to share these beautiful images with the world for some time but the busyness of life got in the way.

Almost nine years ago on Friday, 20 April 2007, the most incredible man, Dirk Brink, had his greatest wish fulfilled while doing what he loved … taking photos, not just any photos, photos of his lions.  I struggle to find words to describe the love he had for lions and his connection to these magnificent animals for as long as I can remember.

These photographs were taken moments before he suffered a stroke and fell out of his car … which was followed by his extreme wish becoming a reality … an irony that was hard to accept.

It’s been an undreamed of journey, one filled with every emotion under the sun. Today we can look back and embrace all the wonderful memories.

This is a tribute to you Dad, because you touched and will remain in the hearts of all who met you!

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“Anyone who knew Dirk Brink would know that he wasn’t a fool and he know about wildlife and he knew about lions, so to sensationalise his death is just typical of people and sometimes the media” ~ Kevin Richardson (The Lion Whisperer), Carte Blanche, 27 May 2007.

“It was an appropriate goodbye for a man who loved nature, out in a game reserve with a waterfall trickling nearby.  Over 800 people sat in a kraal at the Krugersdorp Nature Reserve to remember Brink, a man described as always having a smile on his face, who joked that when he dies there should be no tears and his family should just feed him to the lions.  Eerily, the clouds hid the sun and wind whipped the autumn leaves up as it Brink’s spirit was saying its farewell. The drone of aircraft engines was soon heard above the song and a fleet of planes few overhead, joined by two helicopters that blinked their lights at the proceedings.  It was an aerial salute by members of the Krugersdorp Flying Club.  Brink was a parachutist in his army days and his son Derick is a helicopter pilot” ~ The Star, 26 April 2007.

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“He was our Dirkie, a man who championed the preservation of wildlife. Dirkie was always so very careful and sensible when it came to animals of the wild.

My first memory of Dirkie was from my Grey College days. His fetching smile and good manners were mark of a true little gentleman . His fluency in both official languages caused the late doyen of College Dawie Marquard to comment: ‘Young Brink will certainly make a good lawyer and perhaps a politician as well.’ Dirkie decided that his life would take another course, first as an architect then later as a conservationist.

Over the years Dirkie exhibited a quiet disposition when in class discussions. The points he wished to make were lucid and clear. He put these talents to good use in Social Science and Vocational Guidance. Many of his arguments were such that I had to read up on them and come back to the class. In 1968 I came to Welkom and was delighted to have met ‘Brinkie’ again. He had put on a little weight and here and there was the odd sliver streak in his hair. I would not have been able to cope with all the vicissitudes that beset my principalship had it not been for the sound advice and assistance he gave me.

He was generous towards the school. The training pool would never had come to fruition if it had not been for Dirkie. The extra playing fields would not have materilised had it not been for his know-how and contacts. Maudie and I always looked on Dirkie as the son we never had.” ~ Joe Barry, 21 April 2007

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“However, despite the family’s grief, Lizelle said they were not going to kill the lions because her father would have wanted them to live their full lives. ‘It is difficult to have them around. They will probably be moved but we won’t be shooting them. That is the last thing that my father would have wanted. We want his legacy to continue. It is difficult to make a decision on where the lions will go, but they will be free-roaming. We will get a new pride and continue running the game reserve because life goes on.’  Remembering her father, Lizelle said they were best friends. She bought him the camera he had with him when he died because he loved wildlife photography. The camera was on the passenger seat of Brink’s vehicle when his body was found.  She described her father as a phenomenal person who was a role-model to many. ‘He was a man of wisdom, a walking encyclopedia and the most remarkable man. I have lost a best friend and confidant,’ a sobbing Lizelle said. ~ IOL News, 23 April 2007.

“Dirk het my getref as ‘n ware heer. Sy liefde vir die natuur het sterk geblyk toe ons daar by julle was on die program Gifwatersrand vir 50/50 to maak. Ek onthou nog hoe Dirk en ek saam in sy kar gery het, en hoe trots hy gesels het oor julle uitdagings en ook oor julle sukses; hoe hy sy geliefde diere aan my gewys het. Dit was vir my veral treffend toe hy aan my genoem het dat hy hom geseend voel om sy droom so te kan uitleef.” ~ Andre Walters, 21 April 2007

“Met my onlangse kuiertjie het dit my weer eens getref watter wonderilke en besonderse persoon hy was. Hy was ‘n mens-mens-persoon, nederig, altyd vriendelik, gasvry, gemaklike omgang met almal en steeds Dirk Brink – die persoon wat so baie omgegee het vir sy medemens.” ~ Raymond Bouwer, 24 April 2007.

Eulogy by Hans Strydom – 25 April 2007:

Dirk Brink het aan Grey Kollege in Bloemfontein gematrikuleer en hom daarna aan die Vrystaat Universiteit as argitek bekwaam.

He was a natural athlete and earned SA school colours for gymnastics and swimming, provincial colours for diving, target shooting and water polo.  Those who know him in his younger days say he could easily have made it in rugby as fly-half or center.  In his army days he qualified as a parachutist and was one of the first members of the SA army’s parabats.

In Welkom het hy sy suksesvolle argitekspraktyk begin.  Die wat weet se sy argitekstyl het ‘n vernuwing in die dorp gebring.  Vandag staan daar soveel geboue in Welkom wat Dirk Brink die lig laat sien het en wat vandag dien as sy nalatenskap aan die dorp.

In 1990 Dirk & Elna privatised the Krugersdorp Game Reserve.  Except for a few rondavels, it was just veld.  They started designing and building what we today know as the Ngonyama Lion Lodge.  it was not enough, they built a second lodge, Discover Lodge.  Today these beacons on the West Rand serve as life long monuments to Dirk Brink for his insight and dedication to conservation and wildlife preservation.

Dadpics-1526Ons almal het Dirk geleer ken as n joviale, vriendelike mens.  Hy was altyd bly om jou te sien.  Die wat hom in sy jongdae geken het, op skool en universiteit, onthou hom as die immere grapjas.  Altyd ‘n bok vir sports.

Maar Dirk het ook ‘n sagte en verantwoordelike kant gehad.  In sy lewe was hy voortdurend betrokke by sy gemeenskap.  Hy was jare betrokke by die Round Table, het op direksies van Standard Bank en United Bouvereniging gedien, op Kerkrade, Welsynorganisasies, Skoolrade en Eiensdomseienaarsverenigings.

He was an acute businessman, respected by everyone.  His experience and advise was often sought and readily provided.  He granted everyone their place in the sun.

We will all remember Dirk for the mensch he was.  He could tell a good story, even at his own expense or that of his family, such as the one where Derick was learning to drive and smashed into and demolished a Welkom Bottle Store.

Almal wat met hom te doen gehad het, het hom as ‘n vriend beskou.  Hy was ‘n besadigde mens, nie oorgegee aan emosionele uitbarstings nie.  Hy sou ‘n saak kalm van alle kante beskou, soos ‘n juris, en dan sy opinie en raad gee.  Hy was ‘n probleemoplosser nie ‘n probleemmaker nie.  In Langenhoven se woorde:  Die man wat ek na soek is nie die man wat die minste foute maak nie, maar die man wat die meeste foute regmaak.  So ‘n man was Dirk.

In our lives there is no cure for birth or death – all we can do is to enjoy and make the best of what lies in between.  This Dirk did.

He used to joke and say that he did not want a big funeral and long tears at his death.  “Just feed me to the lions” he said.

Hy laat ‘n ryk nalatenskap.  Sy vriende en personeel sal hom onthou met waardering en respek; sy familie, vrou en kinders, met liefde.

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