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My Darling old Mom

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Joan Cowie 14th August 1920 -20th November 2009

My mom was born in the tiny little farming area of de Wet in the Western Cape, not far from Worcester – the first of three children born to Lance and Elsa Munro.
My grandfather was a character of note, and to say that the Munro children grew up in beautiful surroundings would be stretching the truth to the limit. As the children grew up, my grandfather travelled far and wide in search of the perfect job, and the children were literally pulled from pillar to post, living everywhere from Cape Town to Vaal dam to Bulawayo to Witbank...wherever the wind blew next, that is where the Munro clan drifted.
Whilst my grandfather was working at Vaal dam, my mom was sent to boarding school in Heilbron in the Orange Free State and she was at last able to find some stability in her life, and was elected Head Girl of Heilbron High School for her Matric year in 1937. During that year, my grandfather had yet another job offer, to run the Mine Mess at Mufulira Mine in Northern Rhodesia. One small detail escaped the interview, however, and that was the fact that he had three children – he managed to tell them about the two boys, but simply omitted the fact that mom was busy writing her Matric!
That being done, he simply uprooted the family once again, leaving Mom in the capable hands of the teachers at the boarding school, and headed “Up North” seemingly without a worry in the world with respect to mom’s future welfare. He was happy to simply write to mom and tell her to go to her aunt’s farm in the Eastern Cape, once she had written Matric, and to live there until he had summoned up enough courage to inform the Mine that he actually had a daughter as well!
In June 1938, mom was finally summoned to come up to the Copperbelt and join the rest of the family, and after a five day journey by train, she finally arrived at Ndola station with only a tickey left in her purse, so that she could give a tip to the porter.
My grandfather had been scouting the young men at the mess to see if there was anyone suitable for his lovely young daughter, and by the time mom arrived, he had set his sights firmly on a young man called Jimmy Cowie – the only man on the mine who was good enough for his daughter, as far as he was concerned!
Within a few hours of her arrival, mom was met by a group of young people who all wanted her to come to a welcoming party the following evening. My grandfather immediately took charge, and much to my mom’s horror, he said that he would love Joan to go to the party, provided she was escorted there by Jimmy Cowie!! The fact that Jimmy had a serious girlfriend at the time meant absolutely nothing to my grandfather and he happily organised the date, just knowing that he had done the right thing.
For several months after that, mom would cross the street if she saw Jimmy coming towards her, but her father had been right all along, and towards the end of 1938, he finally started taking mom out seriously and they were engaged to be married in May 1940, and the wedding took place on the 7th September 1940 – a marriage made in Heaven, as they were to be very happily married for the next 62 years.
Mom and Dad were both keen sports people and mom played left wing in the local hockey team in Mufulira, and then took up Golf after dad started playing in the mid 1940’s – she went on to win the Coronation Cup in 1955/56 and had her first hole in one on the 13th hole at Scottburgh in July 1980, two weeks before her 60th birthday.
The Mufulira days were wonderful for mom as she finally had stability in her life being married to her beloved Jimmy. Pam was born in 1941, Noel in 1943, then a 6 year gap until my birth in 1949, and then another 6 year gap to Susy who was born in September 1955.
Growing up in our family was very special, as mom gave us freedom to simply be “kids” and to play in the bush around Mufulira. Noel was passionate about horses, and he spent most days at the stables with his horses. Pam followed mom’s footsteps on the hockey front and was chosen for the Northern Rhodesian team in 1957, whilst Noel went on to become Northern Rhodesian Junior Show Jumping Champion – jumping his little grey Pony – Ticky.
I was passionate about cars all my life, and mom finally discovered that if she wanted to sit down and chat to her friends at home, all she had to do was to give me the keys to her car, and I would spend the rest of the day driving around our massive garden, or obsessively cleaning every nook and cranny on the cars. All this time, Susy was building an academic name for herself at school as well as learning to play the piano too beautifully.
The family finally grew up, and Pam was married in June 1961, then Noel went off to the army and returned to start a job on the mine. Noel met Phyll, the love of his life, whilst we were on holiday at Rhodesia by the Sea in Simon’s Town at the end of 1963, and it was not long after that that he left Mufulira to work in Cape Town so that he could be close to Phyll.
Our Mufulira days came to an end in August 1964 when dad was transferred to the Mine Head office in Ndola, and then in December 1964 he was offered a job in Phalaborwa, much to the combined horror of mom, Susy and myself, who were all quite happy to stay in Northern Rhodesia!
After arriving in Phalaborwa, I think it is safe to say that mom cried several buckets of tears every day, as she missed her beloved Mufulira and Northern Rhodesia so much. Dad had a cunning plan, however, and soon found jobs for as many of our Mufulira friends as he could, and soon mom was happily able to have tea with her dear friend, Elaine Wright, and much to her joy, Pam’s husband also found work in Phalaborwa, as did Noel and by the end of 1966 we were one big happy family again, and life returned to normal. The development of the new golf course allowed mom to once again play with her dear friends Elaine Wright and Anne Cullinan....all “refugees” from the Copperbelt.
Despite the shaky start, the Phalaborwa years were not that bad, and in 1970 dad was made General Manager, which allowed mom to become involved in the design of their new house, which was loosely based on our Mufulira home – those Mufulira ties were always just below the surface, no matter where we were.
Dad was asked to set up the Administration of the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia in 1975, and mom and dad moved to Swakopmund early in 1976 for what was to be one of the most idyllic times of their lives. Their house was literally built on the beach, and every Sunday they took the trusty old Land Rover, loaded it up with food for the day, and then trundled straight up the beach to one of dad’s fishing spots. Mom got dad to build her a fold up wind-break and whilst dad fished, she happily crocheted her beautiful blankets, or simply sat there and read her beloved books...something she had done all her life.
Dad tried to get mom to fish, but she really wasn’t interested but finally decided to simply play along and “give it a go” on one of the Sunday expeditions. She got dad to sort out the tackle, then quietly walked down the beach with him, got him to cast in beyond the breakers, and within a couple of minutes she had a massive kabeljou on the hook. After ten minutes of skilful fighting, this beauty of a fish was lying beside her on the beach. Dad was beside himself with joy, but mom, in a style that was unique only to her, asked dad if he was happy now...of course he was, so mom simply said, well that is it OK if I now go back to my reading and let you get on with the fishing!!?
I mentioned mom’s reading, and what cannot be missed out is her love of poetry. As a young girl she collected and cherished many books of poetry, and then started writing her own, simply for her own amusement. She also always made sure that each one of her family had a special poem for every birthday, and we looked forward to those poems as much as we did our presents.
Dad’s accident in 1977 saw them having to take early retirement, and they chose to come to Widenham where the final stage of their lives began. Once again, mom was able to take up golf, and she also busied herself with painting lessons and taught herself how to crochet Red Indian style blankets...once again, one for each member of the family.
Mom’s health started to deteriorate during the 1990’s and after a fall in February 1998, she really became house bound to all intents and purposes. We were so lucky to have Cynthia Khomo working for us, and she had been a great friend and companion to mom since 1982. Initially, she was able to help mom with dressing and moving around the house. As things became worse, however, Susy sent money from the Sates so that dad could employ full time nurses to help mom get through each day. What a wonderful group of ladies they were and a special word of thanks must go to Thandi, who was sitting with mom when she gently slipped away, as well as Cynthia, Daphne and Zama who came straight over to the house and sat with mom until she was taken away. We could not have survived without them!
And so my darling old mom is finally at peace, together with her darling Jimmy and Susy.
Hamba kahle Mom – we will all be together again one day – until then...

Your ever loving

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