’Mr Plainsman’ and his wife succumb to Covid-19

This picture of Alfred Christian Rhoda, 85, and his wife Joan, 83, formerly from Strandfontein, was taken at the Plainsman’s 40th anniversary celebration last year.

Alfred ’Mr Plainsman’ Rhoda, who worked for the Plainsman for many years and helped ensure that readers got their favourite community newspaper every Wednesday, died of Covid-19 last week. Four days later his wife Joan also passed away.

Mr Plainsman’s final stop at the local community newspaper’s distribution kiosk in Town Centre.
Plainsman team Abdullah Lakay, Alfred Rhoda, Doreen Africa, Joan Rhoda, and Malcolm Stevens, in Town Centre.

Such was his dedication to the paper that Alfred Christian Rhoda, 85, was at the Plainsman kiosk at Town Centre, when the last edition of 2020 was distributed on Tuesday December 15.

He holds the honour of being the longest serving sales representative for the Plainsman. It was former Independent Newspapers internal sales manager, the late Keith Steele, who dubbed him Mr Plainsman.

About three weeks after his last stop-off at the kiosk, on January 4, he was admitted to Melomed Private Hospital in Tokai, where he died on Wednesday January 13. His wife Joan, 83, was admitted on January 6 and died on Sunday January 17. They had been married for 55 years.

Abdullah Lakay, from Eastridge, who was employed by Mr Rhoda nine years ago to help control the crowd that inevitably grew every Wednesday when people lined up to get their copy of the Plainsman.

Mr Lakay was a fruit and vegetable hawker in the Town Centre, when the two met. Now he sells from home.

Mr Lakay said they planned hold a short memorial for Mr Rhoda today, Wednesday January 19.

He said people had been very sad to hear about Mr Rhoda’s death. “I am going to miss him a lot. We are very heartbroken,” he said.

He described Mr Rhoda as a good, humble man, who was “very understanding”.

As the years went on Mr Lakay had also come to know Mrs Rhoda, who, he said, was a good and kind woman.

Mr Rhoda was part of the Plainsman launch team in 1979, having previously worked for the Cape Herald. After he retired 41 years later, he continued supporting the team until their annual break in publishing last year.

Their only son Angelo, who lives with his family in New Zealand, said Mr Rhoda got excited every Wednesday when the Plainsman was distributed.

“The rest of the week he would be slow and tired but on Plainsman day he was up early with a packed lunch made by my mum for his sidekicks Doreen and Dullah.

“He loved speaking to the locals and then visiting the shop owners,” he said.

Angelo Rhoda said the next day they would have good chats over the phone about his father’s adventures.

“My dad loved people. He said to me as a child ‘treat everyone with love and respect, some of them could be angels in disguise’,” he said.

Angelo and his wife Suzannah moved to New Zealand about 20 years ago, and have a daughter Indiannah, aged13.

They had renovated their home and the plan was for the senior couple to move in with them.

But Mr Rhoda wanted to stay in their Strandfontein home. About two years ago their niece Gale Cyster offered to take them into her Ottery home and they only moved a year later.

Ms Cyster’s husband Clive, 67, who was the chairman of the Ascot Civic Association, drowned in a swimming pool accident at home on December 28.

He is survived by his wife, their two children and two granddaughters.

Ms Cyster said the morning she buried her husband, she had a friend call an ambulance for her uncle.

“We just thought he was shaken by the situation that he started coughing rather badly.”

But, she said: “He tested positive for Covid-19.”

Soon after, Mrs Rhoda began coughing terribly, had severe headaches, a sore throat and a slight case of diarrhoea. Her blood pressure was also very high, which prompted Ms Cyster to call an ambulance for her.

Ms Cyster said her husband did everything for Mr Rhoda.

“He would shower him, if he wanted to go somewhere my husband would take him. In fact, my uncle asked who will help him now,” she said.

Ms Cyster said her uncle had always been jovial.

“Never serious. He loved children. Although his granddaughter was far away he loved my grandchildren and always would buy something for them when at the shops.”

Mr Rhoda also illustrated this love for children at the annual Plainsman children’s Christmas party where he played the role of Father Christmas for many years.

“He loved his wife very much and was always willing to do anything,” Ms Cyster said.

“The Plainsman was his heartbeat, which he never wanted to give up irrespective of his age or health.

“The Plainsman was his life.”

Ms Rhoda, she added, was a “supporter” of her husband.

She was a florist by profession and worked at a flower shop in Wynberg, where she retired.

“She was fond of flowers and when the flowers would arrive following my husband’s death, she would snatch them up and make them into an arrangement,” she said.

In her last few years Ms Rhoda, as a member of the Sharon Assembly of God seniors club, would organise outings.

“Her speciality was hospitality. If you came to visit, within minutes you would be offered something to drink and the tablecloth would come out,” said Ms Cyster.

Mr Rhoda was also a preacher for 30 years at the Sharon Assembly of God church, in Portland.

Sandy Naude, chief executive officer of Africa Community Media, a division of Independent Media which publishes the Plainsman and its sister titles, said Mr Rhoda’s death was a great loss to the community.

She said Mr Rhoda managed the kiosk, where crowds would gather to collect their weekly copy of the publication.

“Alf’s warmth, humour, sincerity and gifted people skills attracted the respect of his clients and colleagues alike,” she said.

Ms Naude said he was a deeply religious man.

“Alf would smile at me, when I was concerned about his safety, and with utter conviction say that ‘the Man upstairs is looking after me, so don’t worry’,” she said.

“The community was faithfully served by Alf and Joan and the loss of this wonderful couple, who I was privileged to call friends, will be keenly felt by their extended family, many friends and former colleagues at Independent Media.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to their son Angelo, his wife Sue, their granddaughter Indiannah and their families,” said Ms Naude.

They will be buried from the Sharon Assembly of God church, in Portland, on Saturday January 23.