The following eulogy formed part of the burial service for Eric Freemantle, held at the Union Church, Rosebank, Johannesburg on 8th December, 1972, which was led by Rev. Sydney Hudson Reed.
Eric Freemantle had a will of steel and a heart of gold. He belongs to the comparatively small group of men who have come from the lowest rung to the top of the ladder by sheer force of character and ability. He has given the Stock Exchange, which he joined as a teenager, 60 years of outstanding service, becoming an expert whose advice has been internationally sought.
There are many aspects and activities of his colourful career, which come to the minds of his family and his large circle of friends today but outstanding among these was his kindness. To help a fellow being in need was the dominant motive of his life and God prospered him so that he was able to help. There is a veritable army of humanity, which has felt the touch of his kindness. Young children caught up in the cruel deprivation which is war, widows bereft of the breadwinner, young men seeking a break in life, older men looking for a second chance, those who endeavour to work for their fellows, ministers, missionaries, Christian workers, felt the strong hand of his support on their shoulders.
But the greatest investment this great man ever made was in the Company of the redeemed, the Company of One who came to serve rather than be served, to help rather than be helped. The One, of whom His contemporaries said: 'He went about doing good'.
Eric had a share of His friendship, which he never bought, it was bought for him and the price was the life of the young Prince of Glory. He received this share by faith and it was such a simple trusting faith, characterised by a sense of unworthiness and an overflowing gratitude. These are the signs of true Christianity.
He showed his love and gratitude in the way the Master laid down - by serving and helping others. There are hundreds who will rise up and call him blessed. As I came into the vestry this letter was handed to me:
We, the African Staff of your firm, Max Pollak & Freemantle, which through your sympathetic and fatherly care towards us, has almost become our home, feel very much lost, dejected, and grief-stricken at your sudden death. Your death, Sir, has not only deprived us of a kind and sympathetic employer, who would never fail in assisting us in our troubles and those of our families at all times, but also of a father in whose care we enjoyed happiness and security and were proud of working for you. In your presence Sir, we not only felt happy and secure employees of this great firm, Max Pollak & Freemantle, which owes its entire success to you, but also as part of the devoted and responsible members of staff, who would wish it even greater success and prosperity in future.
Finally, Sir, we wish to say that our hearts are very sore and we share the grief of your death with the rest of your family, and may the good Lord bless you for all the good things you did on this earth and may He let yuor [sic] soul rest in eternal Peace.
AFRICAN STAFF, MAX POLLAK & FREEMANTLE.
It is a source of amazement to me that one who did so much for so many was grateful for so little in return. Two words belong together will always characterise Eric in my mind and heart - the last words I heard him say: 'Thank you.'. He had a way of saying thank you, which divested it of all that is formal, unreal, insincere. I believe that these were the words he heard on the other side from One who is not forgetful of our work of faith and labour of love, that is if Eric did not get in first with his humble sincere 'thank you'. These words linger in our hearts and come to our lips as we give thanks for every rememberance[sic] of a true son of South Africa, a loving husband, an understanding father, a humble member and great benefactor of the Rosebank Union Church, and a brother beloved by a wide circle of friends who unite today to say 'THANK YOU ERIC'.
Eric Freemantle died at 1.30 a.m. on 7.12.1972 at his home, 'Greystones', Eastwood Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg. At his bedside were his wife, Alice, and three sons, John, Lennox and Christopher. The news of his death was telephoned through to his daughter, Ruth, by her brother, Lennox, at about 3.30 a.m. that morning.
A large number of his family, friends and the staff of Max Pollak & Freemantle attended the funeral service. Only the family gathered thereafter at the Crematorium and then returned to 'Graystones' for an hour or so.