A community mourns

2009-06-27 00:00

THEY were so happy to have found each other and the pastor who married them said they were “excited and exuberant about their marriage”. Only two months after their wedding, the same pastor has conducted their funeral and laid them to rest in a common grave.

The funeral of Hannetjie Blom (40) and Alan O’Neal (57) took place at Grace Community Fellowship in Howick. Blom’s coffin and O’Neal’s ashes were buried together in a single grave in Howick West cemetery.

Pastor Peter Meintjies conducted the service that was attended by about 100 family and friends.

The couple lived in Merrivale. Their bodies were found in thick bush on Beverley Farm in the Dargle last week.

The motive for their murder is believed to be revenge related to an altercation they had with a former employee.

Blom’s mother, Hannetjie du Plessis of Sabie, said the family is “broken”. “They could have just taken the things they wanted. It was so unnecessary to kill them,” she said.

“Her death came at a time when she was happy and healthy. She had a difficult birth and much pain in her life. We prayed a lot during her life and the Lord spared her for 40 years. She survived cancer three times. The last, uterine cancer, was the most serious. But we are grateful that she experienced so much love from her friends here. We are grateful to God for that.”

Hannetjie’s sister, Hester Wortel of Lydenburg, said that after she had survived cancer and many hardships in her life, it was “so cruel to be killed in this manner. She did not have a chance to be happy.”

Hannetjie’s son, Casper Blom (18) of Durban, said he hopes the couple “go in peace and rest in peace” and read an Irish blessing as a tribute from one of Blom’s friends:

“May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm on your face,

and the rain fall soft on your fields,

And until we meet again,

May the Lord hold you in the palm of his hands.”

The unfairness of the couple’s death and the anger of their community were themes that ran through the brief speeches made by several of their friends.

“It’s unfair and what happened is not right,” said Lorraine Olsen, who lived near Blom and knew her for about 10 years.

“I am angry because they had so much to live for. They were very happy in the last few months of their lives. We will miss Alan very much as he was very important to us,” said Lynette Marnitz, wife of O’Neal’s friend and employer, Gavin.

Speaking afterwards, Gavin said O’Neal had also experienced great hardship, and had been very sick with TB. “But they were two changed people. It is such a pointless and senseless tragedy to happen when life was just coming together for them.”

Another friend said he would remember Blom as “amazingly brave. She never let the cancer get her down. She still chatted and laughed and dreamed.”

His wife reminded Casper Blom that although he was angry and had every right to be, his mother had taught him about love and laughter and “loved him passionately”. She had also taught him to “get up and move on after the hard times”, which she encouraged him to do.

O’Neal had three children and several grandchildren who were not able to attend the funeral. Casper Blom read a tribute from the family who remembered that O’Neal was known as “Haasie” and fell in love with cars when a boy. He was competitive at games and won several yoyo competitions when he was young. He could complete a Rubik’s cube puzzle in less than a minute. He was also a loving and dedicated father and grandfather. “Above all, he loved to play the guitar and had a special song that he used to play for my mother.”

Pastor Meintjies, who conducted the marriage service for Blom and O’Neal in April, said their marriage had made them both “very, very happy”. He urged mourners to remember the laughter they had shared with the couple, the good times and the bad.

Blom’s mother and sister expressed their family’s thanks to the couple’s friends and acquaintances in Merrivale and Howick. “We have been welcomed and had so much support and help with the funeral arrangements, including accommodation. We are very grateful.”

The man accused of murdering the couple, Alfred Ntuli (23), has appeared in the Howick Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder and robbery. He was employed as a gardener at the couple’s home in Merrivale. He has been remanded in custody until Monday.

‘May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm on your face,

and the rain fall soft on your fields,

And until we meet again,

May the Lord hold you in the palm of his hands.’

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