Farewell, Auntie Margie

Community leader Magrieta Isaacs died on Monday May 9.

Community leader and everyone’s sister and mother, Magrieta Isaacs of Scottsville, died last week of a brain haemorrhage.

Auntie Margie, as she was widely known, was passionate about her community and spent her retirement years working tirelessly in the neighbourhood watch and walking bus.

On the morning of Monday May 8, she fell ill while escorting children to school in the walking bus. She was admitted to hospital later that day and died in the early hours of Tuesday May 9. She was 67.

“The school kids and the community were very important to her. She was a friend, a doctor, a counsellor,” her daughter Bernie Saal said.

“We feel so honoured to have had her as our mother.”

Ms Saal added: “She left a legacy behind for us. We will never be able to fill those big footsteps that she left behind.”

Ms Saal is the eldest of Auntie Margie’s six children. Auntie Margie is also survived by 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

But Auntie Margie had regarded all the children and grandchildren of the community as her own and had fretted about their safety and well-being constantly, Ms Saal said.

“Whenever the family were together, she would talk about the area and the crime and the police. And we would ask, ‘Is your life not in danger?’ And she would say, ‘Never! My life is never in danger because all these children, I treat them like my own children.’”

Ms Saal is well acquainted with all of Scottsville’s concerns because she would speak to her mom about them on the phone daily, every morning or evening.

“And my children know that when I’m talking to my mom it won’t be a few minutes. We talked for hours,” she said.

Every day, Auntie Margie would debrief to her eldest daughter about the hardships the children on the walking bus endured. Ms Sauls would hear about a little one’s mom who had cancer or a child that needed school clothes.

Just before she died, Auntie Margie had phoned her daughter with an urgent appeal for spinning tops for the children in the walking bus. She had promised a little boy one and realised that she would need to do the same for all the other children too.

“I promised her we would go on the weekend to get them,” Ms Saal said. “And then she reminded me not to forget the strings.”

The family worried that Auntie Margie would wear herself out, and they invited her to come and live with them and enjoy her retirement in peace.

“She said no, she couldn’t do that. What’s going to happen to the kids? Who was going to tell the children they must stop doing drugs, and what if one of the neighbours needed something?

“Sometimes we’d phone and say, ‘Mommy, can we fetch you?’ And she’d say, ‘No, I first have to check my diary.’ Her community was her life.”

Auntie Margie’s friend and neighbour, Anna Hendricks, described her as a “light in her life”.

“Sy het lig gebring waar daar donkerte was,” she said.

Ms Hendricks said Auntie Margie had helped her overcome her depression after her son had died and had inspired her to join the walking bus. Ms Hendricks’ son, Jermaine, died in 2012 in gang violence.

“Sy het my hand gevat en vir my gewys, daar is nog lig.”

When Ms Hendricks started recovering from her loss, Auntie Margie encouraged her to become more involved in the community.

“Toe kom haal sy my vir die neighbourhood watch,” she said.

Ms Hendricks said Auntie Margie’s home had been a rallying point for the neighbourhood watch and walking bus. Everyone would gather there before going on patrols.

“En alles wat sy het, het sy gedeel. Al is dit net een rolletjie, sy sal dit in ses gesny het,” she said.

And no patrol left the house without Auntie Margie leading them in prayer first.

“Sy het gesê, ons moet vir die walking bus bid en dan bid sy vir die skool, en al die kinders, en die onderwysers en die prinsipaal en vir almal in Scottsville. Auntie Margie was * suster vir almal. Sy het so diep in my hart kom klim.”