Pieter Gert Wessel du Plessis was born on 4 January 1932 on the farm Geelhoutbos north of the present-day Thabazimbi as one of twins. He and his sister were the children of Jan Harm Christian du Plessis and Maria Magdalena (born du Plessis). They were baptized in the Matlabas Reformed Church, between Brits and Thabazimbi.
His father was a farmer on, among others, Frankvlei in the Bushveld and later in the district of Thabazimbi. He and his sister, Corrie, were in Thabazimbi Primary School and matriculated at Gimnasium High School in Potchefstroom. At school he played tennis and was a hurdles runner.
After matric (grade 12) he obtained the degrees B.A. and M.A. in philosophy at the then PU for CHE. His supervisor, Prof. H.G. Stoker, advised him to get exposure for two years to several universities in the Netherlands (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Leiden University) and in Germany (University of Bonn and University of Tübingen).
Before he left for Europe, he married Annetjie Kruger, daughter of Bettie and the late Chris Kruger of Reddersburg, in 1955 in Bloemfontein. Annetjie was born on 2 June 1934 in Bloemfontein. Her parents farmed in the Reddersburg district. After her father’s death in 1946, Annetjie and her mother moved to Bloemfontein. After their wedding, the young couple left for the Netherlands on a mail ship via England. She also studied at the Potchefstroom University (PU for CHE) and was trained in social work and later also in library science.
In 1962 Pieter received his doctorate under prof. Stoker in philosophy (cum laude) at the PU for CHE. His area of specialization was various aspects of ethics. After their return in 1957, he was appointed as a lecturer in philosophy at the PU for CHE. In 1965 Pieter became Professor of Philosophy at the then newly founded University of Port Elizabeth.
At the founding of the former Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg in 1968, he was appointed as head of the philosophy department. He was twice dean of RAU’s faculty of humanities, was a Senate representative on the Board for 12 years and as such a member of the Executive Committee of the Board.
Du Plessis conducted research in Toronto, Canada in 1970 / ’71, and was a visiting fellow at Princeton University in the USA. In 1976 he was a guest professor in the Netherlands at the invitation of the Dutch government. During the previous South African dispensation, he was a member of the State President’s Scientific Advisory Committee for four years. He was a member of the South African Academy for Science and the Arts and was actively involved, among others, as chairman of various committees of the Humanities Research Council (HSRC).
His publications include a few books and about fifty articles, some of which are in international journals.
Numerous postgraduate students obtained their masters and doctorates under his guidance. Among them are ministers, of the Reformed as well as other churches, academics, political consultants and politicians.
During the transition period in South Africa he served as the country’s cultural attaché in Brussels, Belgium for three years from 1989. He retired in 1992, after which he returned to the PU for CHE for five years in 1996 to help establish the Centre for Faith and Science.
He was a great lover of classical music and an avid gardener, especially indigenous plants and trees. As a hunter, he went hunting successfully with his hunting friends and his son-in-law and grandsons up to the age of 84. He was a dedicated ethical hunter.
From an early age he served on church councils of the various congregations of which he and his wife were members. He often served as Deputy of various Synods of the Reformed Churches of South Africa. The congregations of which they were members over the years were Potchefstroom-Noord (and Noordbrug after secession, 1957–1965), Port Elizabeth (1965–1967), Linden (late 1967–1995), Potchefstroom-Noord (after merging with Noordbrug as Potchefstroom-Die Bult, 1996–2013) and Pretoria-Montanapoort since 2014.
His calm, thoughtful and sober judgment of affairs were always highly valued. These were his most outstanding qualities. Above all, he was a deeply religious man. With love and wisdom, he was a father to the couple’s three daughters, Elida, Marileen and Annerita, and later a loving grandfather.
After having had cancer for a number of years, Du Plessis passed away on 8 may 2017 at the age of 85.