PERHAPS an anecdote that best epitomises the quality of Chris Gerber, happened at Mike de Kock’s Christmas lunch a few years ago, writes JACK MILNER.

Chris, journalist Dave Mollett and I were sitting together, and as Molly shuffled to the table, Chris asked what was wrong. Molly described the challenges he was having with his knees but pointed out that as he was not on a medical aid, he lacked the funds to have the necessary surgery.

In a flash Chris said: “You’ve got the money. Raise what you can and I’ll make up whatever the shortfall.”

When I relayed this to Jonny Gerber, Chris’ brother, he remarked that at the funeral so many people came up to him with similar stories.

Chris was a man with a heart, and his death from a heart attack as a result of contracting malaria last year at just 53 years old, was a blow to the racing world and a loss to humanity, because he still had so much to give.

world and a loss to humanity, because he still had so much to give.

Among the tributes was one from Mark Currie, joint chairman of Kenilworth Racing, who knew Chris well. “He was particularly passionate about the administration of the racing industry and never wanted anything for himself. He gave much more to racing than he ever took out. He even donated his director’s fees to the Highveld Horse Care Unit.

“His love and passion for horses was quite remarkable. There are many people in the racing industry who can learn from the great example Chris set.”

The Summer Cup was always a race close to Chris’ heart for a number of reasons. The first is  that he won it twice, the first time in 2006 with Malteme and again in 2008 with Rudra. After Rudra’s victory, Chris asked for Bridget’s hand in marriage.

“A few hours after the race we were in the ‘Fun Box’ at Turffontein and Chris turned to me and said ‘let’s get
married’,” said Bridget. 

“Late into the night we all went off to the Jolly Roger in Parkhurst and I told him if he wanted to retract his offer, he could. He said ‘no’, and we were engaged.

“We actually took the Summer Cup trophy, the one that’s supposed to stay at Turffontein, to the Jolly Roger.”

While he enjoyed his personal interest in his horses, Bridget said Chris always had the bigger picture of racing in mind. “Even when he lay on the couch watching Tellytrack, he would respond to any criticism by saying, ‘I’m not watching TV, I’m working’.”

Explaining the way Chris viewed people, Bridget recalled: “He used to play golf at Wanderers on a Thursday and one day someone asked if he could join them. Chris said yes, and when his secretary asked if he had looked at the man’s low handicap, Chris replied, ‘it’s not about the handicap, it’s about the character of the man’.”

When one met him, Chris always had this naughty smile on his face as if he was contemplating what prank he should play on you. Jonny speaks about his “Chrisms”, certain expressions and sayings that were exclusively his and characterised his unique sense of humour.  

He was born into a rugby family, with his dad, Mickey Gerber, a former Springbok. But racing was Chris’ first love. He had horses in training all over the country, most of which were trained in Gauteng by Alec Laird. 

His best horse was Rainbow Bridge, trained in Cape Town by Eric Sands, but sadly he did not get to see his runner win the Sun Met this year.

In 2003 he teamed up with veterinarian Bennie van der Merwe to start Moutonshoek stud farm which stands sires Mambo In Seattle and Marchfield, among others.

He attended King Edward VII School in Johannesburg, completed an undergraduate degree at Stellenbosch and completed his post-grad studies at UCT to become a chartered accountant. He described himself as being in the fuel retail business called PEG which he ran with two partners.

Chris had four children, Josie, Catie, Georgie and Matthew. Josie, 21, will be graduating from Stellenbosch with a degree in Industrial Engineering, Catie, 19, is at UCT studying politics, philosophy and economics, Georgie will be going into matric at DSG Grahamstown while nine-year-old Matthew is in Grade 3. The three girls will all be attending the Summer Cup.

Jonny is a founder of the TAG Foundation, an organisation that provides opportunities to competent learners from financially challenged backgrounds, who have the making of influential leaders. Their alma mater, King Edwards, is the school the leaners attend. Jonny describes Chris as the gift that never stopped giving.

“He was our biggest supporter, our biggest benefactor and he was so proud of what we were doing,” Jonny said.

When he queried that generosity, Chris replied: “I am just repaying a debt. You have no idea just what this place means to me and what it did for me. It was the making of me.”

Chris has been gone from us for just over a year but at least, by attaching his name to this historical race, his legacy to the sport he loved will not be lost.  – TAB News.

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