Raymond Louw: hamba kahle

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There are times in one’s life when one does not know how privileged one is.  Such a time was the short period during which I worked as the National Development Manager of the New Era Schools Trust.  At the time, the board was chaired by Ramond Louw.  He took leave of this world, today, at 92.

At the time (around 1991, he would have been 64, and I in my late 20’s), I knew (who didn’t) he was the last editor of the Rand Daily Mail. At the time, he and Jean ran the by-subscription-publication, The Africa Report, which I believe is still operating.  I recall the deadlines and how it was all done from his study in their home in Parktown, Johannesburg.  It was typed on an early wordprocessor – probably WordPerfect – printed (photocopied) and posted.  That meant folding and stuffing and stamping (hundreds of) envelopes by hand.

Raymond and Jean welcomed me into their home. He was a gentle, firm man, with a wonderful sense of humour – he laughed from the depths, and with his eyes. There were times we galloped around Johannesburg in his huge old Mercedes Benz (which he rode like a cowboy); at others, he allowed me to chauffeur him in my “company” Opel Cadet – to see one or other ambassador in Pretoria.

I recall his stories of the last days of the Rand Daily Mail, especially its ultimate demise.

How I wish I had paid more attention.

I also remember, when we flew to Cape Town for the official opening of a new school.  I sat next to him on the plane and he regaled me with more stories – about his daughter, my namesake, he kept telling me:  he was so excited to be seeing Fiona Ramsay, (whose stage name is Jean’s maiden name), perform at Maynardville – for the first time in years.

To me, Raymond (never Ray) was a role model and mentor; he listened, engaged and guided. Nearly thirty years ago, there was no email: I delivered the documents and we discussed them, in their enormous, comfortable sitting room.  I was the willing back-room girl when we went to present our case to prospective donors or attended those ubitquitous fundraising functions.

On one occasion, when we were going to one such shindig, he was “Dad”, pointing out that one of the buttons down the back of my skirt, had come off.  He had spotted it on the seat of the car, and after a necessary inspection to determine whence on the skirt the button had come, suggested that I should simply keep my jacket on, saving me any embarrassment.

I worked for that organisation for just on a year, but during that time, Raymond had a profound influence on me.

That my alma mater, Rhodes University, bestowed an honorary doctorate of literature upon him, is a matter of personal pride.

That he died within a day of his beloved Jean, is a blessing to them both.

Source Photo credit: PenSouthAfrica

Thank you, Raymond, for your generosity to me all those years ago.  I shall never forget.

Hamba kahle, Raymond and Jean

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

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