GRAAFF-REINET NEWS — The community of Graaff-Reinet was shocked this week to hear of the tragic death of Theuns Eksteen.
He had been eagerly anticipating the lunar eclipse last Friday evening and kept reminding his family that they should make a point of seeing it too.
He and his wife Daphleen watched from their home in Brenda Horwitz Court, and according to his daughter Carla, Theuns was so intrigued that he went in and out of the house to follow the progression of the eclipse.
He looked up perhaps rather too suddenly, and became dizzy and lost his balance. He fell backwards, hitting his head on the paving.
Daphleen managed to rouse him to walk inside, and his GP was called. On Saturday he was admitted to Midland Hospital, and then taken by ambulance to St Georges Hospital in Port Elizabeth, accompanied by Daphleen.
It was found that he had fractured his skull and suffered a massive brain haemorrhage. After extensive testing, the doctors had to accept that there was no hope for his recovery, and on Sunday Carla was contacted at her home in Strand and flew to Port Elizabeth to say goodbye. He died on Sunday without regaining consciousness.
“My father had a living will, and would have hated to be invalid and dependent on others,” said Carla. “He died doing something he loved, with a person he loved - that is how he would have chosen to go.”
Theunis Johannes Cornelius Eksteen was born in February of 1942 in Volksrust in the then Eastern Transvaal. After completing his schooling, he studied at Grootfontein Agricultural College in Middelburg, and it was during this time that he met Ella Londt, a student at the teacher training college in Graaff-Reinet. They fell in love and were married in 1965 in the Dutch Reformed Church in Aberdeen, Ella’s hometown.
The couple had two children. Carla is a physiotherapist in Strand, and Ben, a medical doctor who is currently working in Sydney, Australia. Both are married, and between them gave Theuns six grandchildren, who were the absolute light of his life.
His family meant the world to him, and he avidly followed their achievements with great pride and love. In turn, he was a very special and dearly loved husband, father and grandfather.
Theuns worked for many years with the Merino Ram Breeders Society in Graaff-Reinet, now known as Merino South Africa. He was the secretary for a period of time and went on to become the general manager. He travelled extensively on business, not only throughout South Africa but also around the world, attending international conferences as far away as Australia, often with Ella accompanying him.
After he stopped working at the age of 55, Theuns threw himself into local projects and concerns in Graaff-Reinet. At various times he was involved with interests and responsibilities as diverse as the John Rupert Theatre, the Midland Hospital board, the Grootkerk restoration committee, the golf club, and the preservation of local heritage buildings, working closely with Anton Rupert, a personal friend.
A great many stories could be told about his golfing activities, and Garth Cloete, a previous colleague at Merino, told of the group of senior golfers who meet regularly on Friday afternoons for a gentle round of golf, always interspersed with anecdotes, banter and wonderful camaraderie (especially at the 19th hole!)
Another of his great loves was nature and wildlife, and he was a founding member of Granaat, “friends of the park”, at what has now become the Camdeboo National Park. He was one of the driving forces behind the transfer of the park to SANParks, and friend Arthur Knott-Craig explained that there is still a boma at the offices, built by Granaat, where the “friends” gather once a month for interesting talks on aspects of nature.
Many will remember his involvement with local politics over close to 30 years, and his sterling work with the DA was recognised in November 2015 at a gala function in Port Elizabeth when he and Arthur Knott-Craig were presented with Certificates of Exemplary Service in recognition of their unwavering dedication and service to local government.
Current DA caucus leader Samantha Graham was taken under Theuns’ wing when she started her political career, and the two maintained a close and special relationship. “I will greatly miss his advice and his guidance. He always managed to calm a situation, and everything he ever did was geared towards doing what was best for Camdeboo. He was a wonderful Caucus Leader and I always knew I could trust him to have my back. It is extremely rare to have that in politics - a person you can always trust,” she said.
Theuns was fluent in both the Zulu and Xhosa languages, and this skill proved very useful to him in his political life. He was also greatly respected by all who knew him, and would often act as an interpreter to help sort out problems, many of which were caused by language misunderstandings.
Shortly after his retirement, his wife Ella died after a long battle with cancer. He later married Daphleen Bosch in 2003, whom he met in Bredasdorp through merino friends. She moved to Graaff-Reinet to join him and soon became involved in many aspects of Graaff-Reinet life.
Two to three years ago, he realised that it was time to slow down, and limited his involvement in outside activities - although never his interest. He rarely missed a golfing Friday or a Tuesday at the Park but pulled back from the more onerous responsibilities, happy to spend more time at home with Daphleen.
Although not a “founding father” of Graaff-Reinet, his influence in so many areas of the town’s life will be felt by so many, for many years to come, and his calming presence and generous heart will be sorely missed. He was always a gentleman and treated all who had the privilege of dealing with him with the utmost respect.
Theuns will be greatly missed by his wife Daphleen, children Carla and Ben, and grandchildren Elke, Laurence, Corné, Anja, Lea and Lukas, as well as extended family and his many friends.
A memorial service will be held at the Grootkerk in Graaff-Reinet on Thursday, 9 August at 11:00, and all who knew and loved him will be very welcome to attend.
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