Leah Tutu turns 82 in style

By Jane Vorster
15 October 2015

You’ve got to take your hat off to Leah Tutu. She’s always been dedicated to helping others - even when she turned 82 this week, the Tutu family matriarch used the occasion to celebrate someone else’s life and raise money for a worthy cause. And much to everyone’s delight her husband, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, was in attendance.

You’ve got to take your hat off to Leah Tutu. 

She’s always been dedicated to helping others - even when she turned 82 this week, the Tutu family matriarch used the occasion to celebrate someone else’s life and raise money for a worthy cause. And much to everyone’s delight her husband, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, was in attendance.

Leah presents Ethel Liesa with her award. In the background are Ethel’s daughter, Mpho Mguli, and Leah’s daughter, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan Leah presents Ethel Liesa with her award. In the background are Ethel’s daughter, Mpho Mguli, and Leah’s daughter, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan

Her birthday marked the launch of the inaugural Leah Tutu Unsung Heroes Award. At an elegant event held at De Grendel in the Cape winelands, Leah honoured the life’s work  of 101-year-old Ethel Liesa from Soweto.  Although wheelchair bound, Ethel was on hand to accept the award in recognition of her years of tireless community work.

Ethel Liesa with her award. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan Ethel Liesa with her award. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan

Throughout the ceremony, the Arch’s high-pitched laughter filled the room. Although he still looks a bit frail following two recent stints in hospital where he underwent treatment for inflammation and a persistent infection, he seems in good spirits.

Since being released from hospital he’s been trying to take things easy at home in Milnerton, Cape Town . An ardent sports fan, he told us he’s been following the Boks’ World Cup campaign.  He admitted he was a bit worried after watching the match against Japan but in the following games he was relieved to see that they were back to their winning ways. “I’ll be watching them play Wales on Saturday,” he added. Tutu and his son, Trevor, watching the ceremony. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan Tutu and his son, Trevor, watching the ceremony. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan His daughter, Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu, says since being released from hospital he’s been trying to rest and cut back on what he does in a day. “He gets fatigued much more easily than he used to,” she says.

'He gets fatigued much more easily than he used to'

But even though the Arch turned 84 earlier this month, he was determined that his wife and the incredible woman whom she was honouring took centre stage at her birthday event.

“Liesa was a parishioner when I was put in charge of St Augustine’s [Anglican Church] in Soweto and she made her mark there,” he said in a speech to guests. “She was a very impressive person and I give great thanks to God for her life and for the lives of so many others, including the life of someone called Leah Tutu whose birthday we are celebrating today. She has been a great, great blessing to me. I would not be anywhere near what I have been without her.”

Family moment: Trevor, Leah, and Mpho with the Arch. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan Family moment: Trevor, Leah, and Mpho with the Arch. PHOTO: Misha Jordaan

A charity auction held during the event saw guests bidding for items including tea with the Tutus and handmade replica dolls of Desmond and Leah Tutu. Proceeds from the auction will go to Tygerberg Children’s Hospital.

JANE VORSTER

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