Obituary: Popular former GHS headmistress Joyce Dowse

2008-05-08 00:00

Condolences continue to flood in as Pietermaritzburg mourns the death of popular former Girls’ High School headmistress Joyce Dowse, remembered as a great educator.

Dowse died last Tuesday at the age of 82 after a short illness.

Those who knew her described her as vibrant, flamboyant and a well-groomed "people magnet" with a love for clothes.

Dowse was educated at Girls’ High and then completed her BA degree in English and Afrikaans Nederlands at the University of Natal in 1947.

She was a keen tennis and hockey player and represented Natal at badminton in the early 1950s.

Her first teaching post was at Pietermaritzburg Technical College teaching senior school English, a post she held until the school became Linpark High in the early 1970s.

She was appointed deputy head of Russell High in 1975 and later became their headmistress.

She moved to Girls’ High in 1979, becoming the first old girl to be headmistress. She retired in 1986.

Dowse spent her last days at the Woodgrove retirement village.

She is survived by two daughters and four grandchildren, who are all at university.

Speaking to The Witness, her daughters Cilla and Ros, were full of praise for the woman who not only mothered them, but also the many thousands of girls she taught.

"She was a true Maritzburg girl and always dressed for the occasion. We will miss everything about her … She always supported us in our every endeavour," said Cilla.

Ros, who is a professor of pharmacy at Rhodes University, said her mother gave her the ability to connect with people and the ability to teach. Cilla is also an educator and currently works as the post-graduate academic co-ordinator in the faculty of education in Pretoria. She said the best lesson she learnt from her mother was that no matter what role she decided to play as a woman, she needed to do it with style and with meticulous planning.

Of her illness and death they said: "She died like she lived, with a bang. It was quick and painless. We are overwhelmed by all the support we have received from people in Pietermaritzburg. The phone doesn’t stop ringing. We even had nurses in the hospital whom she taught, coming to see her. People were constantly calling her telling her about their lives and that bears testimony to the woman she was."

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