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Leaving a legacy – We salute you Gerald Stoch!

19 May 2020

Leaving a legacy – We salute you Gerald Stoch!

19 May 2020

On behalf of the Institution of Structural Engineering and the IStructE Southern Africa regional group, allow us to pass our deepest condolences to Family and Friends on the passing of an Engineering legend Mr. Geral Stoch.

To say Gerald was a larger than life character would be an understatement. I think it is safe to say Gerald will always be remembered for his dedication and contribution toward the Structural and Engineering profession, always smiling and uplifting a room with his infectious positive energy!

We salute you Gerald, you will be greatly missed!
**Thank you to the Author: Spencer Erling for sharing some of Gerald’s life and career achievements.

Solly Gerald Stoch
The last of the Generation
Born: 17 January 1925
Deceased: 6 March 2020

Gerald, as he was popularly known, grew up in Carnarvon in the Karoo where he attended primary school. His father started off business as a “Smous”, was successful becoming a sheep farmer and a businessman in the town, owning a number of small businesses in the main street. His father was fondly remembered by the community of Carnarvon for his generosity during the great depression.

His home language was English but as one would expect in a small Karoo town in the 1920’s his “street” language was Afrikaans. He was completely bilingual and enjoyed speaking Afrikaans whenever possible until the day he died at the age of 95.

He completed his school education at Grey High School in Port Elizabeth as a boarder.

When asked by his granddaughter if it was not boring growing up in a small town, he replied “… not if you had an enquiring mind”. When home on school vacations from Grey, he would attach himself to practitioners of various trades – the local electrician, carpenter, auto electrician and plumber. Not surprisingly Gerald acquired a phenomenal practical knowledge of how things worked.

He completed his Degree in Civil Engineering at Wits in 1947. Gerald was one of that illustrious group of engineers of that era amongst who were Alf Abramowitz, Tony Goldstein and Philip Slotzky. While at Wits, Gerald shared a tent with Tony at “Survey Camp”- that institution all of us Wits civil graduates “fondly”

In 1948 soon after starting his career he married Sadie.

In the early 50’s Gerald started his own practice, a basement room at home serving for his office. Sadie was his secretary and office manager. In the days before word processing his children remember Sadie having to retype documents until Gerald, always a perfectionist, was happy that they were flawless.

His enquiring mind was a defining character trait – reading almost exclusively about how things worked – from rotary engines, to the movement of objects in the solar system.

He had a large collection of slide rules and calculators used by engineers which he donated to the School of Civil Engineering at Wits. It is housed as a special collection at Wits, attributed to him. The collection was the subject of an article in SAICE’s CIVIL ENGINEERING magazine of March 2008. It makes for fascinating reading especially for those of us old enough to have used slide rules.

Around 1962 Gerald sold his consulting practice to Ove Arup & Partners, joining them as a project manager. Sadie became the Office Manager at Ove Arup until her retirement when she returned to working with Gerald, until she died in 2003.

After a relatively short period Gerald left Arup to start Metricomp Programmes, to develop and market
engineering software on a rental basis – in 1965, this was the first company in South Africa to do so.

The author met Gerald and became a renter of Metricomp software in 1978. The programs were all written and ran on Hewlett Packard “Desk top programmable calculators” in HP Basic language. Gerald started programming on Olivetti 16k models before switching to HP. By 1980 the HP “calculators” were a “massive” 128k machines. No one knows how many structures still proudly standing today were analysed and designed using his software-testament to the man.