Faces of Covid-19

Ralph Vember loved music, gardening, sport and making curry until Covid-19 took his life

29 June 2020 - 06:30 By Paul Ash
Ralph Vember
Ralph Vember
Image: Supplied

Ralph Vember’s son, Rob, has a treasured memory of standing on the corner near their home in Athlone, Cape Town, waiting for the “caboose” — the Golden Arrow workers' bus — that would bring his dad home every day.

“Most afternoons I’d wait for him on the corner and I’d see the caboose coming,” said Rob.

“It was just a very short walk home but just that kind of excitement that he was home. He carried a proper old-school briefcase and inevitably there’d be something in there that I’d be intrigued by, whether it was a new pen or something completely random. I can still smell the briefcase.”

Ralph, who died in Cape Town on May 29 at the age of 71, loved music, gardening, sport and making curry. At church he sat three rows from the front, first at St Paul’s in District Six and later at St John’s in Bellville where he was councilman.

Born in District 6 on March 10 1949, Ralph had to quit school at the age of 14 when his father died to find work to look after the family. He later got a job at the Golden Arrow bus company where he spent the rest of his working life.

An ardent Manchester United fan, Rob dreamt of taking his father to Old Trafford one day, but it was not to be.

Rob’s great regret is that his father did not get the funeral he deserved.

“We had 15 people attending a service of 45 minutes, everyone appropriately distanced. The worst part, for me, is that he died alone. And for my dad to die alone ... it’s just been the most devastating thing to think that he was lying there on his own.”

Rob is in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.

“My mom just offered me the Sunday Times, which was delivered late last night. As she handed it to me, she said, 'Dad read it for the whole week, and I wasn’t allowed to touch it because I would mess with the way he read HIS paper',” he said. “It reminded me how he always strangely referred to it as 'MY Sunday Times', never just ‘the’ Sunday Times.”


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