On February 24th Bro. Francis Portmann celebrated his 85th birthday. Francis was born 1930 in Wittenmoos, Marbach into a farm-worker family. In 1937 the family had to move to Menzberg where they could only stay for two years. When the estate, Petsch, was sold, the father had to give up farming, a difficult time for the family of ten children.
When Francis finished primary school in 1944, he first worked at home, later as a farmhand on a mountain pasture, Boedeli. Two years later he took up his first job in carpentry in Wolhusen, where he was able to begin his apprenticeship a year later. After the vocational training and the cadet school, he decided 1952 to enter the Mission Seminary Schoeneck in Beckenried. In addition to his formation as a Brother, he worked in the carpentry of the seminary. As there was a lot of reconstruction going on, there was plenty of carpentry work. During the construction of a barn he also learned timberwork.
In 1961, the long-awaited day of missioning to Rhodesia by Cardinal Agaganian arrived. Via Rome and Brindisi, his journey went through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to Beira. In Driefontein he was introduced to missionary work and learned the Shona language. The TB Sanatorium was just opening with a lot of construction work taking place. Bro. Francis was Lord and Master of the mission joinery for fourteen years. In the three years afterwards in Serima, Francis had to deal with very different functions: water supply, power generator, car maintenance and corn silo, and also the orchard.
After three years in the carpentry of Gokomere, Francis took over the management of two hospitals in Driefontein. Accounting, bank accounts, the contact with the Ministry of Health and the wages of 120 people were indeed a heavy burden for him, but also brought him much joy. Once he introduced Antony Matura to the work, he was able to hand over this task to him in 1984.
After his home leave in 1984 he returned to Serima. He was overloaded with work on the reservoir and pumping station, which on December 21st 1985, triggered a heart attack. In April 1986 he returned to Switzerland.
Although Francis had to reduce his activities, he was never bored. In the mission house there was always carpentry work to be done. He could now devote more time to his bees. He also tracked down the telescope which he knew from his time at the seminary and indulged in his hobby as stargazer.
Francis, you’ve been through a lot and have so much to tell. We wish you many more healthy, happy days!