PICS | Families share fond memories of Covid-19 victims

Five families spoke to the Sunday Times about the loved ones they’ve lost in the pandemic, and the holes in the lives they have left behind

24 May 2020 - 00:00 By Sunday Times reporters
Families pay tribute to their loved ones who fell victim to Covid-19.
Families pay tribute to their loved ones who fell victim to Covid-19.
Image: 123rf/Anatoly Kazakov


Cape Town prison warder Gert Titus, who died from Covid-19 last month at the age of 52, dreamt of becoming a farmer.

He died on April 27 after a 32-year career in correctional services. His wife, Sylvia, said his family suspects he contracted the coronavirus on April 22. He sought medical help three days later.

Gert Titus
Gert Titus
Image: Supplied

“He was sent for a test, then admitted to Eerste River District Hospital,” Sylvia said. “His family was not allowed to visit him at hospital … his whole family was also infected with Covid-19. They have since recovered.”

Sylvia said Titus joined the department of correctional services at Voorberg prison, in Porterville in the Western Cape, and worked at several institutions. At the time of his death he was working at Goodwood prison.

He had two daughters and a son. “One of my favourite memories is that whenever Gert walked into the house, he always looked for me first,” said Sylvia. “We were a very close-knit family and we did everything together. His dream was to move to the Northern Cape where he wanted to spend his retirement and become a farmer.” — Philani Nombembe


From the moment Thulani Gumede and his wife Celiwe met 29 years ago, he only had eyes for her.

“He loved me deeply, he never had eyes for any other women. He was a good father,” said Celiwe.

Warrant Officer Gumede, who was also a pastor, died on April 26 at the age of 57, two weeks after being admitted to Mediclinic Victoria Hospital in Tongaat, KwaZulu-Natal.

Celiwe said he was treated for a “bubble” in his lung and was subsequently told he had gallstones and was taken for surgery. “A day and half later, he was struggling to breathe and was taken to ICU.”

Celiwe was later told by funeral parlour officials that her husband had died of Covid-19. She fainted when she heard the news. Health officials tested her and her family at home in Gingindlovu. They were all negative.

The father of three will be remembered for having a good heart.

“Most people used to say the police force doesn’t suit his personality because he had such a soft heart, which is not usually associated with police,” said Celiwe. — Lwandile Bhengu

Anncha Kepkey
Anncha Kepkey
Image: Supplied


When Anncha Kepkey was promoted to assistant manager at Tygerberg Hospital’s emergency unit last year, she said she hoped to leave footprints others could follow. But never did her colleagues imagine they would be following them so soon.

Kepkey died of Covid-19 at Melomed Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town, this week at the age of 52, leaving behind her husband, George, and two sons.

Friend and colleague Amina Pinto said: “It did not matter whether you are a cleaner or a very senior manager, Sister Kepkey treated you equally. She truly had no favourites. She was born a nurse. With the job title she had, she didn’t have to work on the frontline at all … but she was always there on the frontline, assisting patients.”

On May 4 Kepkey said she felt sick and went for a Covid-19 test after six colleagues tested positive. Two days later she was in intensive care.

Another colleague, Volene Werely, described Kepkey as one of the “most energetic, friendly and warm nurses, not forgetting exceptional as an emergency-trained nursing practitioner”. — Sipokazi Fokazi

Laurence Dworkin
Laurence Dworkin
Image: Supplied


Even as he battled to breathe, filmmaker and social justice activist Laurence Dworkin spent his last days reaching out to staff of the ICU in Cape Town where he was treated.

“He was dying but he had built up a relationship with the nurse, a man who had also been in the struggle,” said his wife, Louise Rabe, who was allowed to visit him only once before he died.

She said of her husband: “I think Laurence was never able to accept the nasty part of us as human beings. He kept on trying to improve life. And I’m going to celebrate his life because he stood for so much and touched so many people.”

Dworkin, who died at the age of 65, spent much of his time on his farm in the northern Cederberg. His recent work focused on animal rights. He was fit and walked regularly on Table Mountain.

Dworkin believed he may have contracted coronavirus at his local pharmacy. He initially tested negative after presenting with a persistent cough, but was later confirmed positive after going to hospital, where he was later put on a ventilator. He died on May 17. — Bobby Jordan

Magdalena Julies
Magdalena Julies
Image: Supplied


Paediatric nurse Magdalena Julies, known to her patients as Aunty Moemfie, was a “ray of sunshine” for sick children, said parents who paid tribute to her this week. 

Julies, who worked at Melomed Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town, died of Covid-19 at Tygerberg Hospital at the age of 67.

“This is so sad. Aunty Moemfie took care of both my boys when they were hospitalised. Such enthusiasm and she just loved her patients,” said Tracey Valentine on Facebook.

Simone Rhoda said her heart was in a “million pieces” following the death of a woman who “motivated people through the tough times” and loved the children she nursed as if they were her own.

To her family, Julies was a “pillar of strength”, said her daughter, Rushana Pieterse. “My mother was a fun-loving, caring person and a God-fearing person. She loved her family very much and always went the extra mile to help. We will miss her dearly, a woman with great wisdom,” she said.

Julies worked as a nurse for 48 years. — Sipokazi Fokazi


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