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Franz-Josef Johannes Gebert (Jüppes or Joe)

Joe was born in on the 3rd of August, 1935 in the city of Bochum, North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany.

During the war years as one of many children, he was sent to the Siegerland together with his mother, Elizabeth, and brother, Heinz. His father, Franz-Valentine, remained in Bochum and for the duration of the second world war he was in the tank manufacturing industry. Siegerland was an area with a low population density and away from the falling bombs. There at least it was possibility for him to play and have a relatively normal early childhood. Here he also learned his first words of English by talking to the Allied forces. His sister, Marianne, was also born here in 1945.

Returning home to Bochum after the war, he helped as a young boy and teenager to re-build their and other peoples demolished houses. This work activity built his muscles and gave him his physical strength.

As a young adolescent he had a motorbike and my mother Helga and him toured all over Germany. It did not matter what the weather was like. My mother remembers one particular cold and wet trip, were she held on to him and hid behind his leather jacket to keep dry and warm.

Helga and Joe were married in 1956, also in Bochum.

My mother and father emigrated to South Africa in August 1958 in an Vickers Viscount. This was a twin propeller, piston engine, un-pressurised aircraft and the journey took three days. The aircraft took off after breakfast, landed for lunch and again for supper and the night stop. I was 19 months old and my mother was 8 months pregnant with my sister, Regine. If the pilot spotted a heard of elephant over Africa, the pilot would circle overhead to show it to the passengers.

Joe started working for ISCOR in the electronic instrumentation section. His father had already been working for ISCOR for a few years. My grandfather had written to my father and told him about this fantastic country, South Africa, and the work opportunities here. He sent him the application papers and the rest was done via post.

During the early 1960's he joined Road Research at the CSIR.
In 1966 he patented the use of Piezo sensors for detecting the axles and measuring the speed of vehicles accurately. His company, Truvelo (from True-Velocity), was born and run after-hours by himself in a small room at the back of the garage.

His patent and subsequent designs of measuring equipment make him, in my eyes, the father of accurate speed measurements. One of his competitors cynically referred to the piezo sensor cables as “road spaghetti”. But they could not wait to use it themselves, for as soon as his patent lapsed, the whole world started using piezo sensors for their speed law enforcement applications.

In that small room behind the garage of our house he designed and built many interesting things. Excitedly he came out one day and showed us his own designed and built oscilloscope. It is a measuring instrument, that visually displays the shape of electronic signals and also enables certain amplitude and time measurements.

He also hung dark curtains and made this room light proof. There he developed his own films and printed pictures he took of the family and of other people’s weddings to earn extra money.

I remember, that one day a truck arrived at home dropping off many portable radios, which required repairing and took several weeks. I watched and joined him in that process and learned a lot about fault finding.

He bought 35 mm film projectors and started showing films at regular intervals at various locations in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Edenvale, mostly to the German community. Using this money he was able to purchase components and raw materials required to grow his company. At this stage he was working till late into the night. He kept two jobs and gave his full attention to both.

Joe moved to Defence Research at the CSIR. There he was put in charge of several electronic projects including the Supersonic wind tunnel.

The late 60's and early 70's.

Joe resigned from the CSIR and spent all his time now at his company, Truvelo. He built on a bigger workshop at the back of the garage. By that time he employed 3 people on a full time basis.

By now I was able to help him to assemble the boards and that is were I learned how to solder, make PC boards, spray paint the housing with Hammer-tone paint and apply Letraset to the front panel. He showed me how to build my very own audio amplifier. Later my brother Ralf also joined in and we had hours of fun by building radio receivers, shocking devices, Hi-Fi systems and more. When we did not know how to go further, he would be there to help us overcome the technical challenge.

He still had time to pursue his amateur radio hobby. One evening the police knocked on the door and wanted to arrest my dad. After talking to them for some time it turned out, that some or other person saw my father’s radio ham equipment and reported him to the police as a “spy”. Anyway my dad showed the police his call logbooks, the equipment, license and explained his legitimate hobby to them. Needless to say they apologised and left without him.

One Christmas Ralf and myself got a train set given as a present. My dad spent days mounting the tracks onto the board forming various circuits. We had much fun with the train set, which is still working today.

He now also became a Gunsmith and started to re-barrel rifles, fitting new stocks to rifles and packing same into a special epoxy resin. This gave the rifles better and predictable behaviour ideal for long range target shooting. He joined a long range target shooting club. Ralf and myself also joined and by the late 1970's we accompanied him on Saturdays to various shooting ranges in Gauteng and Bloemfontein.

By 1979 his company was about to burst out of the building at home. His operation did not make any noise, but the premises only had small holding rights. This allowed him to keep a horse, a cow and a few pigs and sheep. My dad then bought an old farm-house in Halfway House with industrial rights. This was initially converted and became the new home of Truvelo for about 10 years. At that stage it employed about 15 employees. In 1990 he expanded the building for the first time. Then again in 2000 and again presently.

During the late 80's and early 90's he expanded his company’s operations into Germany and the UK. Helga and him travelled regularly between South Africa and Germany and stayed there for half a year at a time. This they did for many years. His equipment was type approved in both those countries and many units were sold and installed.

During 1994 he shifted his focus to developing specialised armoury products. It was tough entering this market, with many big established competitors. It required many years of introducing new designs, testing them and handing them over to experts for further testing and incorporating their comments and suggestions into newer designs. This process was repeated and eventually after more than 15 years and lots of effort his products are becoming well known on the international markets. His company is now 60 persons strong.

But there always was time for his family and close friends. We got together at Birthdays, Easter, Christmas, New Year’s eve and very often on Sunday mornings for breakfast. These were normally big events with family and friends present. It was great fun and us children really enjoyed these get-together functions very much.

Ralf, Regine and myself always looked up to my father. In our formative years he was not only our father but also our mentor and teacher. From an early age I always knew exactly what I was going to study when I grew up. So did Regine and Ralf. All of us children joined him in his company and now some of his Grand-children are also present. This is now two generations later.

Reading the many mails and text messages that came in, everybody remembers him fondly. He led by example and did not only give orders, but also was able to show you that he could perform the task he asked you to do. He set an example of never giving up, always driven to find an answer or solution to a problem and to improve on an older idea. He was an entrepreneur through and through, contributing to this industry with his patents, developments and products. He became a leading figure in the industry and an example to follow for many.

We all, his wife Helga, his sister, us three children, his seven Grand-children and spouses will miss him tremendously.

Joe, we wish you peace and send you our love and light!

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