1929 - 2013
Mary Jankowitz passed away on 6 September 2013. A service in memory of Mary will be held at St George’s Anglican Church, Sherborne Road, Parktown on Friday, 13 September. The cremation will be private.
Here are some moving recollections of Mary from some of the women who worked with her at the Black Sash.
When I was asked recently to help update the Gauteng data base and discussed with a couple of people who would be best to consult, the first name that sprang to every lip was that of Mary Jankowitz, who, in her extraordinary way, kept up with the doings of pretty well everyone.
Tiny, birdlike, fragile-looking though she was, Mary was a tower of strength, with an unshakeable faith in the ultimate goodness of humanity and the determination to do her best for those who needed help.
In the Gauteng Black Sash her wisdom and energy, her humour and enthusiasm were an inspiration. In a cynical world she never gave in to cynicism and faced with adversity, as she frequently was, she responded with rueful humour.
As an organiser she was unbeatable – there was no way you could say no to Mary (and no way you wanted to) and she never had to raise her voice to get things done. Typically, during the years in which she ran the highly successful annual morning market she communicated by means of a series of hugely entertaining newsletters which reflected in print her chirpy, crisply articulated voice.
Kathy Satchwell describes her as ‘a real liver of life’. She would pop up at concerts, at book launches, at discussion groups, always enthusiastic, always happy to experience something new, to listen and to learn. She was one of a kind and a huge loss to all who knew her but, to quote Kathy again, ‘she will always be remembered with smiles’.
Mary was a wonderful organiser for the Black Sash, and could be relied on to make any event run smoothly. She is remembered as a wonderful human being, full of political insight, wry humour and a back room girl approach – a “roll up your sleeves and get on with it” person. Her charm and soft voice drew others into her orbit, while her firm efficiency made it easy to work with her. Her mother, Maeve Thorne, was a valued member of the False Bay branch the Black Sash in Cape Town until she eventually went to live near Mary.
Mary was one of the bravest and most loving people I know, and a wry sense of acutely accurate humour. I feel so sad and yet am happy she did not suffer long, as she was so intensely independent, positive, and a woman who really emanated a “let’s get on with it” attitude. Once Sash disbanded the political work, I did not see Mary so much, as my work with Sash ended.
I saw her in the recent years at the Boekehuis talks and then at Ethel and Sheena’s funerals and each time it was a privilege to talk to her again and be reminded of her inner strength and never ending interest in political affairs.
Farewell dear, beloved woman. Strength to her children. We have lost another moral pillar in our community.
Rest in peace Mary. It sounds as if she was indomitable to the end.
Mary was my valued friend and support - always encouraging and interested in what it was that I was doing. My Sash 'mothers' are all dead now. She was a great, determined spirit and I am thankful to have known her.
Gille de Vlieg
I was terrified the first time I stood for Sash but Mary, as my partner, was confident and as always calm. It happened to be me standing when the Security Police arrived to ask for my name. Tiny Mary was by my side in a flash and I think the policeman was confounded when she, pencil and notebook in hand and in her impeccable English accent, with grace and resoluteness said, ‘And may we have your names and numbers please’.
She had good manners, courage and an unshakeable sense of justice.
I shall remember her often.
She was a pillar in the Sash. Vibrant, confident, energetic, loving, kind. I have very fond memories. I’m glad she didn’t hang around too long. Tia’s right – she didn’t want to have to live a half life. She was a good friend to you and I’m thinking of you lots in your mourning.
I loved Mary. Such class, such a tiny, fierce, little, loving bird. Everyone who met her loved her.
The memories of Mary are very special. Mary and her tiny white Daihatsu van went well together as we prepared for Morning Markets. Mary’s smile, impishness, lovely fine skin, rosy cheeks, bright eyes. Janet often remembers Mary when we couldn’t find a parking bay. “Oh just wrap your car around a lamppost” Mary used to say to her when she couldn’t find a parking place when visiting the Black Sash offices in Anderson Street. Rest in peace Mary.