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Ralph Webner (1901-1977)

As told by his son, Gerald Webner

Ralph Webner
Ralph at the time of qualifying

Ralph Webner was the son of Isadore and Helen Webner and was born in Woodstock on the 31/10/1901. His father was a naturalized immigrant from Golgocz, Austria – Hungary who had married an American, Helen Bierman of German descent. I have my father’s original birth certificate, which was reported by his grandmother who had travelled from the USA to help her daughter during the pregnancy.

My father went to SACS and thereafter to UCT where he studied basic sciences with the intention of doing medicine. Since there was no medical school in Cape Town at that time, he went to Trinity College, Dublin as was the choice of many others. The other medical school open to South African students abroad, was in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I have my father's Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Medicine degree in Latin, issued on June 26, 1925. He was 24 at the time. His mother had died in the flu epidemic in Beira, Portuguese East Africa, in March 1920 when he was 19 years old. My father was constantly short of funds both for his school fees and subsistence whilst at medical school in Dublin.

My dad loved travelling and after graduating, he practiced medicine as a general practitioner in England, Vienna and the USA. He was also a ship's doctor. He met my mother, Ada Webner, from Wynberg whilst back in Cape Town and they were later married in the Wynberg Synagogue on August 22nd, 1937. It was at this time that they decided to settle in Bellville, where my father opened a general practice with my mother as his bookkeeper. My mother's parents helped them purchase a home on Voortrekker Road in Bellville. It was a modest home with three additional rooms on the side, which were the waiting rooms and examining rooms for the White patients and additional rooms for the non-White patients.

My father practiced medicine, on his own, from 1937 until 1962 with my mother as his receptionist - bookkeeper.

During the war years my father had enlisted early and was in Durban and later, part of the medical staff at the Wynberg Military Hospital.

My father was seriously injured in a motor accident in March 1962. He spent 6 months in the Karl Bremer Hospital due to a brain injury, many broken bones and a stroke, that left him partially paralyzed.

Ralph Webner
Bertha, Gerald, parents Helen, Isadore and grandmother, Jinny

He was essentially disabled thereafter and forced to retire. It was at this time that Donny Loon and many other doctors from the Northern Suburbs agreed to see my father's patients and pay over these fees to my family, until I graduated from law school, and was able to arrange their financial support.

My father and mother were the most wonderful parents and our home was full of love and respect. We revered our parents. My father was very clever and was able to help in so many ways. He was well read and loved his practice. People were at the rooms constantly. My mother was a source of help and joy to us all and cared for him all the remaining days of his life. They loved going to the movies at the local theatre and would sit on the aisle in the back row, so that my dad could be called to the phone for calls.

My dad was committed to serving the medical institutions and was a part time attendant at the Conradie hospital and on various medical committees. He was also on the local school board, President of the local lawn bowling club and made house call day and night, anywhere from Parow to Durbanville, Brackenfell, Kuils River and Kraaifontein. He was the doctor at the quarries where he did sessions a few times a week.

My great delight was to go with him on his house calls. I recall visiting a farmer with him and sitting in the car waiting. He called out to me from the stoep of the house to get in the back of the car, and open all the windows. When we got home, he made me undress fully on our lawn and washed me down with a hose whilst I soaped myself, and dumped all my clothing in the garbage. He later told me that there were 2 children at the farm he had diagnosed with polio!

Ralph Webner
Ralph and Ada's wedding photo
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