The advertising manager, on the other hand, would love to have the editor try to sell advertising space for one edition. Just once, so he or she can understand what it’s like to walk a mile in the other’s shoes.
During my time as editor of Grocott’s Mail, Ronel Bowles and I had our goodnatured scraps about where she absolutely could place that Pick n Pay advert, or how grateful I should be that she had got an advertiser back to Grocott’s Mail from Mike Loewe’s Makana Moon!
As always, Ronel was the consummate professional: passionate, pleasant and willing to go the extra mile. For someone who grew up at the height of ugly, old apartheid (she was a teenager before the 1980s came around), Ronel had a remarkable ability to embrace a person for who they are, regardless of colour, class or background.
She knew how to elicit a smile with her silly saying; “same sh*t, different day!”,
She had teasing nicknames for every member of staff, and these often went along with her trademark greeting.
I will remember Ronel for always being witty; but mostly for being cheerful; and for never forgetting to say happy birthday.
Kufa ulutshaba! Farewell, Ronel!
* Petros is a former Editor of Grocott's Mail
She truly loved talking to the people around her, and people loved talking to her. Whenever I needed to make myself some coffee, I always made a point of popping into her office for a brief update on what was really happening in town. Ronel was for so many years central to everything that happened at Grocott’s. When her colleagues were losing their cool, and the office was on the verge of a meltdown, Ronel’s big warm smile held it together. She held us, her panic-stricken colleagues, together.
In her position as advertising manager at Grocott’s Mail, Ronel had to deal directly with our clients, the advertisers. This was not always an easy job because if anyone made a mistake, usually me, the advertisers would phone her and vent their anger at her even though they knew it was not her fault. She took the rap. She was the good cop to my bad cop because she was naturally good.
Ronel remembered everyone’s birthday – without internet reminders. She celebrated everyone’s successes and commiserated when things did not go so well. She organised our parties at the end of the year, and our celebrations when the newspaper won prizes.
When I left the newspaper, Ronel and I maintained a tradition that had started many years before – we joined Jeff Grocott for lunch every year on his birthday. It is a tradition that both Jeff and I will miss deeply.
As much as we feel her loss, we can only imagine how sad Ronel’s passing must be for her loving family. They were very much part of the Grocott’s family and we knew we could count on them when we really needed fresh ideas or extra hands. Our thoughts go out to you, Chadé, Linsley and Hewitt.
Rest in peace, Ronel. We miss your warm smile and your friendly advice. We are all so much poorer without you.
Fortunately for us, Ronel was at the heart of Grocott’s Mail for many years. Wherever you found her, she was the brightest smile, the most generous spirit and the warmest presence.
When I arrived in Grahamstown, not knowing who was who and what was what, she was the person I could always turn to for advice and information. Ronel would not just know the basics like people’s titles, their jobs and what they could do for you. She would know their families, their children, where they lived and what they cared about. And she’d probably be able to tell me the history of their business too.
Often, when the going was tough, and I was frying my brains with spreadsheets and strategies, Ronel would pop into my office with a stick of delicious home-made biltong, a koeksuster, a Coke or just a kind word.
During my time at Grocott’s, we had to make some tough decisions. And Ronel was the person I could turn to for honest, practical and smart advice. She could be soft, she could be kind, she could be tough, she could stand her ground, and she could stand back when she thought that was the right thing to do.
Most of all, Ronel wanted to make sure the people were looked after. And many will never know just how much she did for them.
My biggest fear was that Ronel would leave Grocott’s. She had countless job offers – of course everyone wanted some of her magic in their organisation. And they were usually offering much more attractive packages than we could.
But she would always reassure me. She loved her job, she loved Grocott’s Mail, she loved the people who worked there.
Our hearts go out to Ronel’s family and friends, knowing that she was as important to each one of them as she was to us.
We were all really privileged to walk alongside her, and we’ll miss her more than words can say.
Two minutes into the interview, Ronel says to me: "I just want to inform you that I will be resigning!"
I was horrified by this and wondered what I had done to deserve it. I also wondered what I would about all those adverts!
But then, "…but you seem to be a nice person, so I will reconsider and give you three months!" Ronel added.
That was 15 years ago. In the 10 years we worked together, I think Ronel and I spoke every single day. And over the last five years since I've been away, I think we've spoken at least once a week.
Ronel was the repository of this town. She knew everything and everyone, and, as many people have said, she cared about everything. She had the most amazing level of patience. She did everything at Grocott's Mail, including work that was not hers. She would man the shop downstairs, she would drive the papers to the Pick n Pay stand; she would set the adverts if Donnay (Grocott's Mail designer) was busy.
Oh, and Ronel was a biker chick hey. She loved her fast cars, motorbikes and all that. Anything fast was her thing. But Ronel didn't care about them as much as she cared about people.
Before I came to Grahamstown, my husband said to me: "Ronel lived and loved life."
That's why I am so mad that we are here and she is not.
* Vale is a former General Manager of Grocott's Mail
A life well-lived is a life that leaves good memories behind. I have no doubt that Ronel lived such a life.
Always friendly, always calm, hers was a face that always lit up with a beautiful smile. These are just a few good memories about Ronel that will forever be imbedded in our minds.
There is no doubt that some of us who had brief interactions with her in the community print media space learnt a lot from her. We learnt not only the skills and expertise she shared with us, but we also learnt how a human being interacts with other human beings.
To her family, friends and colleagues at Grocott's Mail: thank you for allowing us to share Ronel’s life with you. Thank you for the great work that she did at Grocott's Mail. Thank you for the knowledge that she imparted to some of us at the Sol Plaatje Media Leadership Institute.
To Ronel: angels may be in heaven, but we count ourselves as the lucky ones because we knew an angel – that was you – here on Earth.
Rest in eternal peace, beautiful soul.
President, Association of Independent Publishers
I hadn't been working long at the Museum. We had to submit our quarterly reports in A5 booklets, printed back-to-back. After the so-manyeth upside down page partnered with an off-margin A4 page, I was standing at the photocopier, tears of frustration not far off.
Ronel passed me in the passage; I explained the wasted scrumpled pages lying on the floor.
"It's easy," she said and explained that you number from the front and partner with the last page at the back.
"Somewhere you meet in the middle and hope it works out," she laughed.
Always cheerful, always ready to help. Her trademark chuckle never far away.
How are we going to cope without Ronel? I suppose we will have to… as will her devastated family. I can hardly imagine anyone that I am more sorry to leave this Earth plane. Ronel is someone who should've stayed to show us what loyal friendship, acceptance and cheerfulness was.
We will remember her as we also think of Linsely, Chade and Hewitt and the whole Bowles/Nel family.
Rest in peace, dear Ronel. Thank you for being the colleague-in-a-million.
Formerly HOD Education Department
Victorian teas, garden parties, elegant soireés, even a Mrs Beeton buffet for the British ambassador. Enthusiastic Ronél shone as an unexpected star of the downstairs staff's doings in Downton Abbey – the perfect parlour maid in basic black plus starched mob cap and pristine "prinny" front of house, below stairs or behind the scenes. Ever willing, every merry and bright. I remember her fondly, with a smile.
Ronel was one of the first people I met at the Albany Museum when I started working there in the late 1980s. She was always a bright, cheerful person, with a ready smile and a solution to every problem.
She was a very intelligent person, with a clever sense of humour. Even though I hadn’t seen much of Ronel recently, it was always good to bump into her in town and catch up.
She was a consistent person, always friendly and caring. I will miss her bubbling personality lighting up every path she took, and extend sincere condolences to her family.
Dr Helen James, Dept of Freshwater Invertebrates, Albany
In 1984 Ronel came to the Albany Museum as a young woman (hardly out of school) with a purple streak in her dark hair and she was appointed first as a receptionist/admin officer, then left the museum for a while to assist Linsley with his business, and returned as assistant education officer in charge of school services.
She was always the most pleasant person to work with and so efficient. She even dressed up in Victorian costume and assisted with her “boss”, Janet Hall, with lessons at the Observatory Museum.
The two of them really made the Education Department hum with activity. The Museum Club run over weekends included many staff children. She then got a job with Grocott's Mail and had been a staff member there ever since. However, her Thursday lunches with Pat Black continued long after Ronel left the museum.
My condolences go to her husband Linsley and two children, Hewitt and Chadè.
Fleur Way-Jones, former History curator
By Johan Botha
Ronel was born in Warmbad on 26 February 1966, to Hennie and Anna Nel. She was the eldest sister of Martie, Hannes and Sonja.
During her early years her family moved around South Africa extensively, finally settling in Alexandria, on a farm in Boschoek.
Perhaps these early years accounted towards Ronel's adaptability, friendly disposition and ability to make friends with people from all walks of life.
Ronel matriculated from Alexandria High School. While attending a party in Alexandria, her friendly smile caught the eye of Linsley, who pursued her extensively. She followed her heart and moved to Grahamstown where she started working at the Albany Museum. She married Linsley in 1986 and shortly thereafter had two children, Hewitt and Chade, who were her pride and joy.
After many happy years at the museum, she moved to Grocott's Mail, where she became an integral part of the Grocott's family. In many ways, the members of Grocott's became an extension of her own family and she was very fond of them.
Ronel was a selfless individual who could always spare a moment for anyone and everyone. She would go out of her way to fill the needs and wants of others, without expecting anything in return. She was a very friendly and happy individual, with an easy smile and laugh. She had a zest for life, and was ready for any adventure. When the wheels moved, she was in, ready to go.
Ronel was a thoughtful and perceptive individual, with an open heart.
A testament to your love
By Linsley Bowles
To my dear wife, Ronel. Love, we built our life together with love and respect for one another. You changed my life with all the little things you did for me and we became stronger together in life. You raised our children almost single-handed while I was working away from home, and this was a testament to your love.
Your duty as a wife was unquestionable and done with only love. You will remain in my life forever.
You gave me the best start in life
by Hewitt Bowles
My Mother was a very selfless person. She would help somebody without expecting something in return.
I sometimes thought that she did too much for others and that it went unnoticed,but I now realise how much those little things touched others and how much they appreciated her for it.
Since my mother passed away on Tuesday I have only heard people singing her praise. People I have only met for the first time have come to me and have told me what a wonderful person she was, and some have even gone on to say what an impact my mother has had on them. None of this was news to me, but I just wondered how she managed to do it all.
Family always came first to my mom, and I thought we were a pretty demanding bunch.
She always made time for people, to the extent that popping into Pick n Pay for a quick bread and milk took 4S minutes, and I know, because I was usually waiting in the car.
Mom, thank you for everything you've done for me.You have taught me so much and given me the best start in life that I could possibly have hoped for.
I will love you, for always and forever. Till we meet again.
Your precious smile that has been engraved in my mind will carry me through the hard times.
Mom – my favourite stalker
By Chade Bowles
The world doesn't prepare you for the day you lose a parent. My world has turned upside down and I feel completely shattered without you.
No matter what happened in lfe, whether good or bad, you would always be my go-to person. You could help me solve any problem – no matter how insignificant it might have seemed, you stopped what you were doing and treated it as a high priority.
My mom has always known what a soft heart I have, especially when it comes to animals. I will never forget driving past the Kingswood circle, and to my shock and horror, not one, but two donkeys were lying on their sides. One was lying half off the pavement. I anxiously pointed to the donkeys and said: "Ma, LOOK!!, something's wrong, I think something's wrong''.To which my mom replied: "No my baby, they're just sleeping."
She tactically put voet and got us away from the scene. It was only later, after the incident, that my friend kindly informed me that the donkeys were in fact well passed saving, as they were already stiff and bloated. The more embarrassing element of this story was probably my age – I was 16 or 17…
My mom was very protective and always took the time to make sure I was safe, whether it was constantly checking in, WhatsApping, or even following me in the car. She was and will always be my favourite stalker.
My mom was one gangsta woman, full of life, always ready for an adventure and one of the kindest, compassionate individuals I have known. Someone I am proud to call my role model and my best friend.
Ma, thank you for being so brave and so strong throughout .Thank you for being a role model.
Thank you for making me who I am today – I know it wasn't always easy, I can be pretty stubborn at the best of times.
And thank you for raising the brother I have.
Ek kon nie vra vir 'n beter suster nie
Ai, Ronza, ek is steeds verslae, stom geslaan. Ek vra myself kort-kort af, wat het nou hier gebeur? Is dit nie net 'n nagmerrie nie?
Ek weet ek het vir 'n tyd lank gese dat jy nie vir my gesond lyk nie, maar dat jy dodelik siek sou word was nooit op die kaarte nie.
Wat gaan ek sonder jou doen? Ek het so gewoond geraak om jou amper elke aand te bel wanneer ek in die aand na werk huis toe ry vir 'n vinnige chat. Met wie gaan ek nou praat?
Ronel, ons was saam deur so baie swaarkry en verdriet. Jy was altyd die sterker een van ons twee, die een op wie se skouer ek kon huil en nou is ek alleen. Baie dankie dat jy altyd daar was vir my.
Weet asb dat Linsley en jou kinders altyd welkom sal wees by ons en dat hulle altyd deel van ons lewens sal bly.
Jy is nou by die res van ons familie en ons is nou alleen. Ons sal jou nooit vergeet nie en gaan jou bitter baie mis. Ek kon nie vra vir 'n beter suster nie, dis is net so onregverdig dat jy nou moes gaan.
Beste breakfast vriend
Wanneer ek aan jou dink kom die volgende woorde na vore: onselfsugtig, empatie en liefde vir jou familie en vriende.
Jy was ook die beste breakfast vriend – altyd gereed vir n ontbytl.
Condolences to the Bowles Family and Grocott’s staff on the very sad passing of Ronél. She was a pleasure to deal with and will be remembered for her professionalism, smile and positive hard-working personality. Grahamstown has lost a gem. May she RIP.
Monika Gaybba and staff
Independent Property Consultants
Ronel was a wonderful colleague, full of enthusiasm, kindness and laughter.
Sincere condolences to Linsley, Hewitt and Chade.
The Grocott family
I know it's something of a cliché, but you were indeed one in a million, and I say that as a friend and as a client. I will always remember, and be
forever grateful for, all your support and assistance when I started my business, and for your continued support and friendship over the past 11 years.
I will really miss you, especially at my table at the annual breast cancer breakfast.
My thoughts are with your family, Linsley, Hewitt and Chade.
Our deepest sympathy to Ronel's family and friends. She was always a willing and helping hand, and always had a smile on her face.
Ann Olivier, Mike Lutge and members of the Westley Church
Deepest sympathy. Ronel will be sorely missed.
The Coetzee family and Connocks Butchery staff