ONE of the legends of the Port Elizabeth retail motor industry celebrated a very special birthday at the weekend.
Des Seaman, owner of Seaman’s Renault in Port Elizabeth, George and Knysna, turned 80 and is still the driving force behind the dealerships.
Putting his feet up and taking life easy is not for this fit octogenarian, who still plays a mean round of golf.
Most days he’s at his desk early in the morning, overseeing the running of his busy dealerships with the assistance of son Craig and son-in-law Steven Kenny. The Bay branch is the oldest Renault franchise in the country.
He was not always in the business of selling cars and spent 15 years in the pharmacy business.
Born in Middleburg, Des spent his early life in Somerset East, where his family had a thriving motor business since the 1920s. They also had a motor business in Graaff-Reinet.
When his father died when he was 11, he went to Oudtshoorn Boys High as a hostel border.
He played provincial rugby for SW District Schools and also represented Western Province, Eastern Province, Border and Natal in athletics (high jump and hurdles).
After school he attended the Port Elizabeth Technical College and gained experience at Middleton’s Pharmacy in Walmer, where he worked for a number of years as an apprentice pharmacist.
He then worked for the US pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, where he became marketing manager.
“I left Eli Lilly because in those days South Africans could not progress to the top managerial positions in the company, as only Americans were selected for these posts. In 1970 I opened my first dealership next to the Kahn Brothers building in PE and have not looked back since then,” he says.
When asked for his prescription for a long, healthy life, he said: “Live a good, clean lifestyle, don’t fall off the ladder when climbing onto the roof (referring to my accident three years ago when I nearly killed myself!) and have an occasional brandy and Coke.
“No, don’t mention the Coke, that’s free advertising for Phil Gutsche!” said the irrepressible Des.