Tribute to Tony Sasman: teacher, connector and mentor.

My heart is full. Tony Sasman, one of the godfathers of Grassy Park High school, has completed his earthly race. As a teacher he touched lives, as a connector he embraced communities and as a mentor, he helped others like me grow.

If Tony had sung one of his favourite songs in that emotionally-charged way as he always did when we had our glorious socials,

Are you lonesome tonight? 
Do you miss me tonight?
Are you sorry we drifted apart? 
Does your memory stray to a bright sunny day?

I am sure that many of us would have ditched our conventional background humming to this ballad and would have said instead...

Yes, Tony, we are lonesome and we do miss you tonight because we have to bid farewell to our social connector, relationship builder, father to many and friend to all. You have touched our lives and you have shared your gifts with us so that we can become the caring, compassionate persons we have been destined to be.

And yes, our memory does stray to far more than one bright sunny day. You have left us with a rich legacy that perhaps even you did not fully comprehend as you lived and loved in your quiet, unassuming way. 

Tony, the teacher.

When you started teaching, you may have underestimated the profound influence you would have on helping to build a better world. When you taught children for about forty years, you have directly opened the world of hundreds of children by inspiring them and helping them to unlock their brilliance. More importantly, through your commitment and positive attitude, you have showed the vulnerable and the traumatized that life's struggles can be overcome and that the world is their oyster.

That dear friends, is but the start of Tony's journey as a teacher. Like all brilliant, committed and passionate teachers, Tony's influential reach would have by now filtered through the many layers and spaces in our communities and beyond. Wherever those students who were touched by Tony are today, they would have passed on those gifts of caring and sharing with others.

A good example that comes to mind is one of Tony's students, Reuben September. When Tony called on Reuben September to invest in Grassy Park High School, this young man responded immediately. Today Grassy Park High School boasts a bursary fund which needy aspiring tertiary students have access to. Soon after we were blessed to be earmarked as Telkom's choice to launch their Telkom computer laboratories. This is the power of ONLY ONE student whose life Tony has touched. What greatness lies with those who are blessing thousands of others because they experienced the gift of love from a teacher called Tony Sasman!

I saw how children on whom others had given up, thrived in Tony's class. Those children who were angry, traumatized and hurt because of things beyond their control, were treated with dignity yet they were subjected to the same accountability as everybody else. While other colleagues struggled to get their students to submit their assignments, Tony often boasted a near 100% submission.  The children knew they could depend on their Sir, but they were not going to get away by jeopardizing their education on his watch.

Tony, the social connector

We are also deeply grateful for the role Tony played as a social connector. Who will forget all those crazy Tokai bosbraais and the fun outings by bus that ended with sunset gazing along the Soetwater coastline ?  What too, about the many extended family weekend breakaways at places like Steenbras Dam, Villiersdorp and Goudini Spa?  Everybody went along on these breakaways: our parents, spouses and children. Everybody was welcome and Tony was one of the chief hosts to keep everybody happy and comfortable.

I remember that we were one of the first groups to grace Goudini Spa after they were forced to remove the "Admissions Reserved" status, a camouflage to reserve the resort for Whites only. We were having one of our super Karaoke sessions that extended into the night in Tony's rondawel. As  darkness fell, our amplified voices became more crooked and more daring. 

We were all fired up while singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Just when we reached the second verse, Open up your eyes/Look up to the skies and see, we did see somebody: a security guard who came to warn us that we should retire to our own rondawels, stop the noise or risk eviction. On this night Tony's usually foolproof negotiation skills and calm demeanour fell on deaf ears!

Tony, the mentor

As one of the hotheads, I took long to learn that showing vulnerability and being able to compromise are strengths of character. Over the years Tony was one of the people, who through his gentle manner, dry humour and dislike of conflict or unbearable tension, showed me how to grow up without losing dignity or respect.  Gradually and sometimes painfully, I learned how to sharpen these character-building traits, qualities I would not have nurtured had I not been privileged to see them modelled by an amazing person like Tony.


Now, as I sit here with memories flooding my brain, I am immensely grateful that Tony has been placed on my path. The richness and personal growth that I have gained because of a humble, yet strong person like Tony fill me with bitter sweetness.

I salute you, Tony, my friend, connector and mentor.  

Though we grieve, we know that Tony is dancing with the angels, the place where he belongs now that he has served his purpose here on earth. 


Thanks to Marlene and their children for having shared Tony with us unselfishly over the years.  Thanks too, for showering him with an abundance of love, respect, loyalty and admiration as he bravely fought the good old fight.  

May family and friends be comforted by the words in 1 Peter 1:3-9.



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