Faces of Covid-19

Tribute to 'hard-working, gentle man' who was lost to Covid-19

03 July 2020 - 07:35 By Alex Patrick
Dirkie Kotze died from Covid-19 on June 4, just two days after his birthday.
Dirkie Kotze died from Covid-19 on June 4, just two days after his birthday.
Image: Supplied

A whirlwind romance and a 58-year marriage for retired navy warrant officer Dirkie Kotze, 79, and his wife Lenie, 76, ended with his death from Covid-19. 

Though the family was unprepared for his sudden death, they were grateful that the coronavirus had spared him what could have been a long and painful death from prostate cancer.

Kotze’s last words to his family were “thank you” as they sang to him for his birthday.

Daughter Maryna Verster said: “He was well enough to drive my mother to the shops a month ago. But his health deteriorated quickly and I took him to the hospital for a check-up on May 21. We packed a little overnight bag for him but we didn’t see this coming.”

Verster said when his oncologist admitted him to hospital, she didn’t realise she would never see him again. Lenie was allowed to visit for 15 minutes every afternoon until the following Tuesday when Kotze tested positive for Covid-19.

“He didn’t have any symptoms at the beginning, but by the Thursday he had a sore throat. On the Friday he could hardly speak. On the Saturday I called but his cellphone went unanswered. The ward sister explained that they took the phone away because he was struggling to breathe when talking,” Verster said.

The last time she spoke to him was on his 79th birthday, when a nurse offered to let the family call on her phone. After the family sang to him, Verster heard him whisper “thank you”.

“The nurse said tears began to run down his cheeks as he recognised our voices.”

The next day he was transferred to ICU and placed on a ventilator. He died on June 4.

“My husband was a soft-spoken, hard-working, gentle man. The kind of man who would go hungry to feed another person. We married young and soon after we met - I was 18 and he was 21,” Lenie said.