He remained charming, thoughtful, cheerful and filled with laughter right until the last few days, when we were pleased to see his suffering ended. At dinner earlier this year he asked us all to name the happiest year of our lives. His? “This one!” he said with a chuckle.
He was my elder brother by 14 months, and claimed mischievously that he went into the law because he knew I would get into trouble. (He was right.) Our father left us when I was nine-years-old, and Lester became my protector and father-figure as we both found our paths through the Free State school jungle as Grey College boarders.
Lester was awarded Free State colours for Chess, we were tennis doubles champions, and he played virtually every sport there was from swimming to soccer, tennis to table-tennis, badminton, squash, fencing and even that old Afrikaner sport of Jukskei, played on Sunday mornings in sandpits near the Free State stadium when we both bunked church. He was a star at that too – locals tried their best to recruit him.
Yet it was croquet that became his great love. He got Springbok colours, toured in Japan, India, Wales and England and was invited to the Masters in far-off Australia. The Down Under tour was two weeks, but (always modest) he assured me he would spend the second week on holiday in Australia because he would by then be knocked out. And he was – but never went on his holiday, because he found watching “the croquet so exciting, I couldn’t bear to miss it.” Yet he loved travelling to new countries, meeting new people. He played the piano and enjoyed classical music, theatre and opera.
We loved each other to bits and never fought, but I failed him in his quest to involve me in the excitement of this extraordinary game of croquet.
Lester was loved and respected by one and all, and in return he liked many people, from his croquet mates to his fellow teachers and professors at the university and his colleagues at the CCMA. From the age of four he had said he wanted to be a judge, and somehow at the CCMA he became a kind of judge, trying cases and issuing judgements, trying as always to be kind, fair and lawful. He delighted in going to work at the Council.
His great romantic love was his wife Jenny, and he deeply loved his children Christopher and Katherine, and all five grandchildren, who loved him muchly in return. My daughters loved him too and he them. Then there were the cousins with whom we grew up: Celeste, Lawson, Calvin, Vicky and Alexandra – I think I’m correct in saying he was the most popular of all of us, always the best at games, physical or mental. Always kind, thoughtful of others.
He enjoyed studying and ended up with a string of degrees and diplomas, BComm, LLB, LLM and a professorship. But on his business card he took great delight in adding: Dip Aromatherapy, a diploma he did for fun. He wrote a book on “How to Do Your Own Will” and much other serious stuff for learned journals.
He loved playing practical jokes, not the slapstick kind, rather ones that exposed pompous people or gave children delight. He could not stand any form of cruelty or unkindness. To Lester politicians were, as e.e.cummings wrote, ‘an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.’
It is hard to have a brother who is better than you at everything, especially when he also insists on being humble about it. He played top league squash, and when I actually beat him one day he confessed he had limited himself to only a single stroke for the entire game.
As he became older, Lester loved life more and more, loved his friends better and better, delighted in his family and in his croquet.
It is a pity that his life was cut short. We can mourn that. But we should all wonder and cherish that we were allowed to spend some time with him.
Greta Snaith tells me that Garth and Derrick Snaith were together at Parkview Primary School before going their separate ways and building their careers but they reconnected years later at the then Bruma Lake Croquet Club which went on to become Observatory, Croquet Club where they were joined by Hans and the Paton brothers, Patterson Park and eventually Golden Mallets which on the day I write this, decided to close its doors.
Garth and Derrick, with help from Hans, started Zoo Lake Croquet Club around 2000 and this went on to became one of the strongest Golf Croquet Clubs in Gauteng. Maria and and I joined in 2002 and Garth introduced me to the game and to Association.
As an engineer Garth had a fine sense of what was right and what was wrong and it was no surprise that he took on the Chief Referees role for SACA and was elected as a member of the World Croquet Federation Rules committee. He contributed to their deliberations and to the development of the 2013 set of rules. He told me that, like many players, he never understood how a player could crush against another ball. He was responsible for me eventually taking over as Chief Referee when he felt he had had enough.
He had a comprehensive work shop and woodworking tools and ability. He made much of the equipment used in those early days.
When travelling to Zoo Lake from his home in Boksburg became too strenuous and he was comfortable Zoo Lake was in good hands, those of John Rowlands, he found premises in Boksburg and started the Boksburg Club. When this moved to Avion Park he continued to take an interest in the activities of the club.
Garth was always available when I had queries or needed help with difficult situations. His contribution to South African croquet was immense, never done in search of glory and always most humbly.
Our thoughts are with Ann and the family and our sense of loss real. You will miss him but so will we.
Johan was born in Graaff Rienet & was the eldest of 4 children. He attended Volksskool where he excelled at sport. He was a headboy. After leaving school he enrolled at the Graaff Rienet Teachers’ Training College for 4 years, where his father was Deputy/Vice Principal. It was here that he met & fell in love with Noeline. They were married shortly after qualifying as teachers.
In 1967, they accepted teaching & hostel posts at the Secondary School in Engobo in the Transkei. In 1971 they joined the staff of the Port Alfred High School, where Johan eventually rose to become Head of the Primary section & Noeline became Head of the Kindergarten. He retired in 2005. They had 2 daughters, 2 grandsons & a granddaughter.
They joined the Port Alfred Croquet Club in 2000. He served on the Croquet Committee for several years; was assistant (& later chief) groundsman for the Croquet section; served on a Bar Team for many years, later becoming Bar Manager, a position he held until 2015. He supervised & paid the Club’s Car guard & general factotum. He played very competitive croquet & took part in several Provincial & National Tournaments around the country, winning more than a few titles!!
In 200I/2 he was part of the ‘founding team ‘ from Port Alfred, of the St Andrews Croquet Club in East London. He was Tournament Manager of the EP Highlander Croquet Tournament (now called the Allan Wilson Golf Croquet Classic) for several years. He also managed the SACA Nationals & SA Masters’ Croquet Tournaments here in Port Alfred, as well as managing SACA Nationals in East London.
In 2003, he joined the Bowls section of the Port Alfred Bowling & Croquet Club & won the Novice’s Singles in 2003 & 2005.
His passing has left a huge hole in many people’s lives, especially at the Port Alfred Bowling & Croquet Club. Rest in Peace Johan, you will be sorely missed. Hamba gahle!
Henrietta Heim was not only Secretary to the Cape Provincial Association for many years but ran most of the provincial championships with grace and patience.
She was also the tournament manager at the relatively recent national championships held in Somerset West.
Although primarily the secretary at Fish Hoek Croquet Club previously, Henrietta was always available to help with an encouraging word and was well informed in all the aspects of our game.
Henrietta will certainly be missed and our condolences and best wishes are with her family.
He is known not only for his prowess as a croquet player (across both disciplines of the game) as many Somerset West club and SACA national croquet competition trophies will attest but he is also known as a “top performer” in terms of the good of the game – at all levels.
Peter Millson represented all that is good about the game of croquet. He was competitive, fair, decent, fun (with added British humour), always generous, a thinking man and a wily player. Peter, along with most of the players of that era, carried the torch of chivalry – regardless of the score line !
He was a great friend to have and for those fortunate to know him well he was a great mentor (on and off the lawns).
His passion for the game and the people that he played with (and against) never wavered. He was one of the true gentlemen that helps make the game of croquet stand out from other sports. He and his reputation will be missed by many for many years to come.
I hope that there is a Heaven because people like Peter deserve to keep on playing the game he excelled at for so long – forever. Grahame Tomes