COMMEMORATION OF CLEM THOLET’S LIFE: REFLECTIONS ON A LIFE
Many thousands of people were saddened by the news that Clem Tholet had passed away in Cape Town, after a long illness extremely bravely borne, on Wednesday, 06 October, 2004. The funeral service, A Celebration Of Clem’s Life, was held at the Pinelands Methodist church in Cape Town on the afternoon of Wednesday, 13 October, 2004. Amongst the mourners who attended the service were family members, friends, fellow musos and, indeed, some of whom were there just to pay their respects. In a gesture that was typical of someone as unique as Clem, he had, prior to his passing, prepared a speech relating to his life with a request that it be read out at his funeral. At times moving, at times humorous, at times sensitive, at times reflective but always unhesitatingly honest, this “work” will be appreciated by those who care. Here, then, are Clem’s final, and parting, thoughts – with Thanks to Jean and Ann for sharing it with us.
“When you’re given insistent warnings that you’re going to die – and God knows, I’ve had enough of those – it’s only polite to take the opportunity to prepare a few words for those who’ve bothered to come and say goodbye to you. I mean you really have to, don’t you? I’m afraid I’ve been even more laid-back than ever recently, and only woke up to the notion a few days ago.
I’m going to mention a few of the people who have really been important in my life, and say a word or two of thanks. Now I don’t know who’s here, and who’s not… unless all those spooky stories of the afterlife are true – in which case I do know who’s here and who’s not, and…wait for it…
I can s-e-e-e-e-e you!!
But in the event that I mention a name and they’re bad mannered enough not to be here, perhaps someone would be so kind as to pass the message on, and tell them they were remembered in dispatches, so to speak.
I’ve had an extremely privileged life, filled with a multitude of interesting people and good friends. If you’re here, you’re one of them… so you know exactly who and what I’m talking about. I loved you all. But for fear of boring you all so shitless, that you end up joining me on the other side prematurely, I simply can’t mention everyone by name, and I’ll have to limit myself to barely scratching the surface. But rest assured (as I do right now) that the part that each and every one of you played in my life was valued greatly, and worthwhile to the end.
More than friends, I was really fortunate to have worked alongside some very bright people in my life. Two of the lovelier people spring immediately to mind. To Runette and Carolyn, thank you both for being so talented and for always making me look good.
To Hennie and Simon, on the other hand, thank you both for also being talented – if not nearly as lovely, and as a result still managing to make me look good.
Paulie, you’ve been both good friend and a great workmate. I’ve truly enjoyed the time I spent working with you. Thank you for putting up with all the hassles and keeping so level-headed. And also, thank you for being one of the finest art directors I ever knew or worked with, and an even better person.
Now, a lot of people say that we can consider ourselves well off if we can go back through the years and rake up one, really good, loyal “best” friend in our lives. Someone who has put up with all our weaknesses, follies and foibles… and still somehow, always come through on our side. Someone who would support us, no matter what. I was jammy enough to have had at least two good friends like that, that immediately come to mind. How rich is that?!
Maurice Matthewman was one of my partners in my first ad agency, and was always someone I could turn to as a reliable buddy. He’s another Sagittarian, and I met him in 1973 when he was a sprightly 46, and he taught me a lot about advertising. Unfortunately, I never followed the example he set when it came to health … b-a-d mistake. He was always a brilliant friend, both to myself and to Jean. Thanks Maurice, and thanks too, Pegs, for being such a friend to Jean.
The second great friend I’m referring to I didn’t know quite as long, but a person who was certainly no less a friend, was Ant Grace. He started off as my boss during army call-ups in the Rhodesian Intelligence Corps, but he became an unbeatable best mate of phenomenal proportions, through good times and bad. We did things, and shared things together, and got into the kind of kak together that only the best of friends can do. To the end, I trusted him with my life.
I think the thing that stands out about both these guys, is that they are probably the straightest, most honest and absolutely reliable men you could ever hope to meet. I was really blessed to have them both as great friends, and I’m grateful.
But of course, the love of my entire life and the best friend of all, has to be my Jean. Anyone who even knew us vaguely, knew how good she was to me, in every way. She was companion, lover, sounding board, soul mate, commiserator, partner and enthusiastic encourager. She was my extremely significant other. She’ll hate me to say this, even though she knows it to be true, but she gave in to me far too often. We got married when we were both puppies in 1967 – you work it out – and things haven’t always been easy for her. Her strength, utter steadfastness and resilience are unquestionably what kept us going, and are what helped our marriage survive some fairly wobbly times, and certainly helped me personally to survive long past my sell-by date. It was an unequal partnership, and I’m ashamed to say it was one I got by far the most benefit from. I know you believe in reincarnation Poephol, and all I can say, is that I certainly hope you score a much better bargain next time around! You are such a fantastic person. It goes without saying that I’ve taken as much of your love as I could cram into this failing heart with me.
There are so many other names of so many other good people who overflow onto the positive side of my life, and people that I loved. Names that come flooding back to me, now that I can’t reach them or tell them what they meant to me. Like Dave Marks and Fran, along with all the other musos who were part of my youth, and helped the music grow. People like Mike Dickman, and Mac and Ben Segal. Suzy and Gary, John Edmond and Andy Dillon. And great talents like Nic Pickard with his beautiful lady Helen, Paddy Rocks, Ritchie Morris, Murray Stewart and Jerry Barnard.
There were lots of really special people and exceptional friends like Eileen and Cy, folks like Jeff and Cheryl, and old mates like Pat and Joyce. Noel Chamberlain, my best man, and his wife Flick. Gentleman Rob Kemp and the vivacious Margs. Malcolm and Di Cullen. Jo and June Sievers. Ray and Beryl Banks. Gentle Al and serene Elisabeth, and of course, Rob and Gilly.
There are also people who didn’t really take an active part in my life and people that I haven’t seen for years… but who were somehow an enormous influence in it, nonetheless like Peter Hume, who shaped my love of music. I hope we’ll meet again.
I look back now and take great pleasure in remembering incredible, star- washed nights camping on the Zambesi or in the Namib, with great people like Blackie and Marianna. Or the first time Jean and I visited Mana Pools with Bev and Marinette. The simple beauty that was Rhodesia then, was an unbeatable and unforgettable experience. It was my homeland, and I loved it deeply and longed for its comforting warmth, to the end.
My life was chock-a-block, crammed full of shining lights who made the path brighter for me, and I have to say, mostly easier.
Yet I’m left with great melancholy when I think of those who I ached to have been able to be more of a friend to, and shared much more time with. And here again, there’s one person who really stands out – Mandy. I never really got to be close to you, and that’s left a huge void in my life, and in Jean’s.
This is getting too fraught. Let me just conclude by saying thank you all for being the terrific people you are, thank you for all the good things and good times everyone has shown me, and thank you for all your love.
Which prompts me to drift off and leave this gathering now, and hope you’ll all stay for a dop or three.
In closing.., if I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t get to see Matthew Bull working for Mike Frampton before I died. If ever there was a match made in heaven, that was it. I’m going to have “The Last Word” now – apologies Fleckie! – and see if I really am able to haunt those two. Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye!”