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Tribute to Frans Du Toit

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Tribute to Frans Du Toit
Tribute to Frans Du Toit
Published by TheEd
SA Tribute to Frans Du Toit

The phone call from Elize Engelbrecht in the Western Province Athletics office on Monday morning was stunning in the unreality of it: Frans du Toit had passed away that morning after suffering a heart attack. Recently I attended the funerals of Lynne Spence, who I have known for 30-odd years, and of Gerald Naudé, a much respected “elder statesman” of my former club, Helderberg Harriers. Lynne had suffered from cancer and Gerald had suffered a stroke a few years ago and was 75 years old. But Frans ... healthy, fit, vibrant, on-the-go Frans?

It made no sense. Frans, who ran every day of his life, who looked after himself so well. Frans, who lived for athletics. Frans, who loved a joke, jovial Frans.

I was shocked, and so too, I am sure, will be everyone who knew him.
We have been friends for more than two decades, talking athletics, working together, sharing information, helping each other. Distance Running Results depended on Frans for Western Cape results, and every Sunday evening, without fail, his results would be in my e-mail inbox. So they were this Sunday, with the message that he had been ill since Friday.

But, according to reports, he was up and about on Monday morning, left home to go to a shop, and was struck down by a heart attack.
Frans was a fixture at Western Cape road races, and when he was not announcing (which he did all over the Western Province and Boland), he was standing at the finish line, clipboard in hand, recording the results for Monday’s issue of Die Burger. He also wrote for TygerBurger and was an expert on schools athletics. He had a network of contacts second to none. There was little happening in road running and athletics in the Western Cape he was unaware of.

He was the soul of the high-profile MTBS track meeting, the biggest schools meeting in the Western Cape, which he organised in his inimitably thorough and detail-driven way for many years.

An ex-teacher at J.G. Meiring High School, Frans was one of the “old school” – diligent, precise, articulate, well-read and with a formidable work ethic, yet fun-loving and with a wonderful sense of humour. Information had to be accurate and on time, and he did not suffer fools gladly. But he was always ready for some light-hearted banter or gossip.

I last saw him at the Two Oceans, where he, Stephen Granger and myself sat in the media tent watching the race unfold on television. We exchanged views on the race, made jokes, and prided ourselves that we, together with Manfred Seidler, were the only “serious” road running journalists there. All the while Frans was bustling around, trying to get results, fretting about his deadline, making notes.

We spoke last week about the upcoming races this past weekend, and getting the results. He complained about the way Die Burger has downscaled its publication of local sports news, and how he saw that as a sad step in the wrong direction.

On Sunday evening, true to form, there was his usual compilation of results (which appear in this issue). Little did I know then that it would be the last.
Frans du Toit was a great friend, a super person, and a passionate lover of athletics. The sport – all aspects of it – will be much the poorer without him.

Few of his kind remain.

'This tribute originally appeared in Riël Hauman’s weekly newsletter Distance Running Results.'

The funeral service of the late Frans du Toit will take place on

Friday 5 June 2009 at 14h00 in the

Heidekoppie NG Church, Protea Road, Protea Heights, Brackenfell.
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