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Blog > Saying Goodbye to André

Hello everybody.  I have been quite for some time and I thought it was right to let you know that my life-long partner and my very best friend, André has died. We are all so sad here in Cape Town and today I want to pay tribute to a kind and gentle man who lived for his family and his work.  



Di when she met Andre


We met in the early hours one morning at Addington Hospital in Durban where we were both working in the trauma unit. I helped him to suture a patient who had been badly cut in the face and I remember thinking how neatly this doctor stitched the wounds. He asked me “What is catgut (the suturing thread) made from?”  I replied, he smiled and our fate was sealed from then on. We were married when I was 21 and he has been part of my life for more than 30 years. How I miss him!   André never really understood exactly what I did. He told everyone “my wife does patchwork and she makes cushions and things….” and I smiled because he meant it so well and he was so proud of my achievements, I think he bored everyone with his stories about me. He was the perfect person to judge my work as he was so honest about what I needed to add or to take away.   He particularly loved these roses that I made for our new book, Little Flowers. He said they looked real and I am so blessed that I managed to finish our book before he died, otherwise I doubt whether I would ever have been able to complete it. My heart is just too sore to even think about it.  I am going to miss his opinion and feedback so much.    



  2 Double Roses and Blue Violets by Di van Niekerk    


He was so proud that I was writing this book with my friend Marina Zherdeva from Moscow. He simply loved the idea of combining our work and thought Marina's designs were incredible.    



Chamomiles by Marina Zherdeva for Little Flowers in Silk and Organza Ribbon    


André grew up on a farm in Africa, in Somerset East in the Karoo and he was the eldest of five children.  His dream was to study medicine. Which he did. And he loved it. He particularly loved working with African people and spoke fluent Xhosa and Zulu. He worked in the remote areas of South Africa, treating patients who had little or no access to medical help.  He became a pilot so that he could fly into inaccessible areas in the Natal Midlands to assist those in need. Every week, he would drive up the Sani Pass, a treacherous route in the Drakensberg Mountains to treat his patients in the isolated parts of Lesotho. He had a four wheel drive and he used to ride, sometimes 400 km a day, along dry and dusty roads (many impassable by car) where his patients would wait alongside the road until he drove past and they would flag him down so that he could assist them. He worked for Drs without Borders in other parts of Africa too and spoke often about his time in Nigeria – a hot and humid country.



Two ducks



He worked on oil rigs and on ships, and he loved to travel for his work.   André loved animals and he always had a large menagerie around him.When he travelled to Medical School a thousand kilometres away, he took Stoffel and Sophie with him. They were his pet ducks and they stayed with him in his residence. During the day he took them to the organic farm at the university and at night he fetched them and they slept on a towel on his desk. During the holidays the trio would make their way back to the farm and the dam. And André had more Stoffels and Sophies when we were married and we always had dogs and cats and birds and chickens and geese and ducks and a pet pig named Blossom…. I cannot remember a time when there was not an animal around.  His favourite dog was the Bulldog, Milly and she went upstairs to sit with him the night that he died. It's uncanny how Milly seemed to know as she never climbs the stairs. It's too difficult for her.    


He adored his two boys, Ryan and Brandon, and he was so proud of them. They were his reason for getting up in the morning and how he loved to brag about their achievements! Everyone who was important to him would receive a text message whenever he could give them news about his boys. They made him so happy.     


  Those were the days  


He loved his rugby and tennis and golf and he loved the cooking channel. He loved all children and often took them flying with him. Three of the boys in this photograph have themselves become pilots! And he loved to cook. André was the one who bought the groceries and cooked the suppers. He loved to experiment with new recipes and waited proudly for everyone to have a taste. He loved to plan the suppers and he loved to entertain. He has left such a huge gap in all of our lives.   God Bless you André and thank you for what you did for this family. We salute you big man – you will always be part of us. “A man who gave everything and asked for nothing.”


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