A TRIBUTE TO KATH REES

Born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, (now Harare, Zimbabwe), at 03H50 on the morning of the 17th November, 1974, Kath was christened “ Kathryn Elisabeth Lorelei Rees “. Later she preferred to just be known as Kath Rees.

She was a beautiful, happy baby and was her parents pride and joy.

Growing up she was an obedient, helpful, enthusiastic child and from early on displayed a desire to always do her best at whatever she undertook, and this attitude really did often make her the best at whatever she was attempting to do – especially academically. Her character and nature led her to putting herself under enormous pressure to achieve at whatever she was undertaking, which rather put her parents and her brother under a lot of pressure also, as they strived to support her in whatever she did.

Kath was a loyal, obedient and loving daughter and sister and took great pride in her family. She was also a loving, caring and loyal friend, which led her to make many friends easily and to work hard at nurturing, developing and retaining their friendship.

About 7 months after Kath was born her father was offered an Associate Partnership with the Firm of Consulting Engineers, by whom he was employed, and the family moved to Gwelo, (now Gweru ), in the Zimbabwe Midlands. Gwelo was a lovely, quiet, little city with great, well-known schools and a friendly, close knit community rather like Pietermaritzburg.

Kath started her academic life at “ Auntie Peggy’s Creche’ and immediately threw herself enthusiastically into all the activities offered by the little pre-school of 40  odd children.

Later Kath embarked on her education proper at CJR ( Cecil John Rhodes ), Govt. Primary School, where she excelled academically and unfortunately proved that, though enthusiastic, she was never going to be great at sporting activities. On one Sports Day, taking part in the potato race, Kath not only managed to collect all the potatoes in her row, but, scampering about like a busy little ant, also managed to collect about half the potatoes in the adjacent row, leading to the child on that row winning the race. Kath still managed to finish third, and her teachers were so impressed that they gave Kath a special prize for her sterling efforts.

Despite being “sportingly challenged”, Kath continued to excel academically, was a voracious reader and usually came first or second in the class at exam time.

 After Zimbabwe became independent, the family moved Kath to a newly opened Primary School – Midlands Christian School – where Kath continued to excel academically and strengthen her growing interest in literature and poetry, which led to her wanting to take part in every acting opportunity which arose. She participated in every school play, either in a leading actress role or as the Narrator and kept her parents busy, making costumes and props for her various parts.

Kath loved her brother Sean very much, and was always there to assist and support him at school, and even after school and missed him terribly, when he immigrated to the UK.

Kath asked to be allowed to learn to play the piano, and did very well at passing many of the international exams, before she moved from Gweru to High School.

Unfortunately the high school which was linked to Midlands Christian School –– was only just starting when Kath completed Grade 7, and wishing to give Kath the best possible academic opportunity, but nevertheless with very heavy hearts, they decided to send Kath off to ARUNDEL School in Harare, – which was arguably the best academic Girls’ high school in Zimbabwe at the time. Kath was rather trepidations about going to boarding school at first but did bravely accept that it did offer her the best academic opportunity. After a rather unhappy first year, Kath eventually settled, in Angwa Hostel, (where Form 1’s were accommodated), ended up loving ARUNDEL and never looked back. It has to be said though that she was helped to some extent by the fact that the House Mistress, of her Boarding Hostel, turned out to be her Mum’s Godmother, and her maternal grandmother with whom she was very close, lived in Harare and was able to visit her and take her a slap-up roast lunch, every Sunday, which helped her to get used to the rigors of boarding school life, much more quickly.

In her third year Kath was elected (not appointed by the school) by the girls of Sabi Hostel to be their Head of House, such was her popularity by that time. In her final year, though she had been appointed as a school prefect and was very busy studying, the School requested Kath to return, as Head of House, to Angwa Hostel because they believed that her empathetic nature would help the new girls to settle more quickly. Amazingly, because her sporting achievements had not improved much, Kath was appointed to be the Vice-Captain of Gaskell Sports House, much to her, and her parents’ surprise!! It has be to be said though that having taken up rowing, (to meet boys apparently), Kath had become a fine oarswoman, and was reportedly the best Stroke in the school.  She competed in an inter-schools tournament at Rooiplaats Dam, near Pretoria, and rowing at stroke with 8 other oarswomen, managed to win the race, over two kilometers, with a motley crew of volunteers, (as her school crew only had 4 members in it), in a record time, which to the best of our knowledge has not yet been bettered.

Kath continued to excel academically, and in her Fifth Form year, she wrote exams for another three level subjects at mid-year, (having passed 11 already), and passed them all with high grades. Kath loved learning Latin, and could often be found lying on her bed in the holidays reading Latin poetry!!? She loved Latin so much that her, and a friend, in the Fifth Form year at Arundel, decided to translate the famous “Iliad “ from Latin into English to help their other friends understand it and enjoy it better  .

After passing out of High School with high grades, Kath went to a specialist, expert Educational psychologist, for a vocational assessment, to help Kath decide which degree and profession she should follow. Despite costing a fortune this proved to be a rather disappointing and fruitless exercise, because based on her academic achievements, his interview with her and his psychometric tests, he merely advised ,” The world is at your feet my girl – you will be successful at whatever profession you fancy following ! “, which didn’t really help Kath or her parents.

At first, because of her caring and empathetic nature, Kath thought that she would like to become a clinical psychologist to really be able to understand and help others. Being aware that opportunities for success in this field were fairly limited in South and Southern Africa, Kath’s dad eventually convinced Kath that she could get just as much satisfaction and probably far greater financial success too, if she studied and practiced law. She took a bit of convincing but agreed in the end and enrolled at the University of kwa Zulu Natal, to read for a BA and LLB degree.

After she completed her university courses Kath returned to Zimbabwe to work in Zimbabwe, for a short while, but soon she decided to go back to Pietermaritzburg to follow her dreams.

Her brother Sean, having finished school, and having no desire to attend university, wanted to follow a career in the hospitality industry. Tired of studying and obsessed with sport, he was lucky enough to find a job as a Trainee Hotel Manager at Old Halliwell Country Inn, at Curry’s Post, working for the father of a varsity friend of Kath’s. So when she went back to RSA Kath took a job as a Customer Care Hostess, also at OLD Halliwell, whilst she waited to be accepted to do Articles at the Law Firm, Austen Smith. Kath had always wanted to work for the Law Firm Austen Smith, and having done her Articles there, like they say in the Classics, – the rest is history!! Kath was conscientious, hard-working, diligent, ambitious and prepared to deal with whatever was thrown at her, and we believe it was these qualities and attitude, which eventually led to her rising to become both Senior and Managing Partner of the firm.

Unfortunately, in 1997, Kath found that she came out in big red blotches on her skin if she exposed it to the sun for too long. She went to see a doctor and he advised her that she regrettably suffered from a fairly rare, but very dangerous medical condition, called “ Lupus “ The doctor warned Kath that she had to follow medical advice, manage her condition very carefully and diligently, as it was very serious. He further advised her that many women sufferers often died in their mid-forties, especially if they had undergone several pregnancies. He warned her to be especially careful if she became pregnant.

Kath loved life and was determined to live as normal a life as possible despite her medical condition, not being careless, but striving to manage her condition as much as possible, with the help of her doctors. She did manage her condition so well, and pretty much enjoyed a full and satisfying life. Through her contacts with Old Halliwell, she had met the Manager, Craig Speed, and after completing her Articles at Austen Smith, Kath and Craig married in 2005 at the Granny Mouse Country House Hotel in the Natal Midlands.

Despite the dire warnings about the danger of pregnancy, for female Lupus sufferers, Kath decided to get pregnant twice, absolutely blooming with health on both occasions, and presented her family with two beautiful and delightful girls – Emma and Chloe. Kath was so proud of them, loved them so much and strived to give them as much of herself as she possibly could (whilst probably secretly worrying that her time with them may be all too brief and praying that God would give her as much time as she needed to help her precious girls to become relatively self-reliant and independent.). No children could ask for a more caring and loving mother and no husband could ask for a better, more loving and loyal wife. Similarly no parents or siblings could ask for a more generous, kind, loyal, caring and loving daughter or sister.

Kath with her daughters Emma and Chloe

Kath lived with her Lupus condition for 21 years and with the help of her doctors, managed it so well, but eventually succumbed to the pernicious, opportunistic, pneumocystis pneumonia and CMV viral and fungal infections, which she unfortunately contracted 3 times in 2018 until her poor, weakened body just could not resist and fight them off any longer, with the CMV virus having begun to destroy her vital organs.

Kath loved socializing and was a loyal and caring friend, which we think was borne out by the huge outpouring of condolences, love and practical assistance given to her parents, her brother Sean, husband Craig, and daughters Emma and Chloe, especially while she layed in the Intensive Care Unit at the PMB Mediclinic, so desperately ill.

In Loving Memory

Kath, Emma and Chloe