Westridge High’s secretary retires after 42 years

Lucelle Hess, 64, secretary at Westridge High School, retires after 42 years of service.

Westridge High School bid farewell to their secretary who retired after 42 years of service to the school.

Lucelle Hess, 64, finished up in January after having started her secretarial career at Mount View High School in Hanover Park in 1977. At the time she lived in Crawford and would often walk to and from her place of work.

Last week pupils formed a guard of honour from her office, to the school hall, where parents, staff and guests paid tribute to her.

She recalls that at the start of her career, she used a typewriter which she would take home if she had some last minute letters or notices to type.

On August 15 1979 she started a new post at Mitchell’s Plain High School Number 1, as the Westridge school was then known. It was the first high school in the area, and had opened its doors two years earlier.

Ms Hess served under five different principals – men and women – each of whom had made an impression on her, she said.

Ms Hess – whose surname was Engel before she married – attended Elim Moravian Primary School, completed Standard 8 in Bredasdorp and completed a two-year secretarial course at a commercial college, in Athlone.

On June 19, 1982, she married the school’s physical science and mathematics teacher, Victor.

She was born and baptised in the Moravian Church, in Elim, and still an administrator for the church’s regional council.

Former teacher Craig Yon said Ms Hess served as the secretary of the school governing body (SGB). “So, from this we can see that being a secretary seems to run through her blood and she just loves doing that kind of work.”

Over the years her duties have evolved as she adapted to the challenge of modern technology and means of communications.

“I used to go into the bank to deposit large sums of money. We had to walk around shaking a bell. Today it is all automated. I had to walk up to teachers now I just need to send a WhatsApp message,” she said.

These changes have also seen her adapt to working a computer, to managing a laptop, making electronic funds transfers (EFTs), posting letters, sending emails and taking photographs on the cellphone.

Ms Hess enjoyed end-of-term outings, inter-school competitions and celebrations, accompanying pupils on outings, and dressing up for Valentine’s Day and matric balls.

She took pride in the pupils’ successes, recalling Dr Bronwyn Bock who played netball at the Commonwealth Games in Machester in 2002, or matriculant Joshua Human featuring the provincial top 20 academic achievers.

Ms Hess said whole school evaluations were trying on everyone at the school, including, pupils, teachers, principal and staff.

“Everybody was nervous and stood at attention when the circuit inspectors arrived,” she said.

Ms Hess also had to appear in court after a pupil deceived the school and her parents by applying for a transfer.

The pupil had eloped with her boyfriend to Durban.

This forced the school to change their policy and ensure that parents consent to any transfer documentation.

“I did not like handing parents over to the debt collectors. Parents also threatened me,” she said.

Mr Yon said Ms Hess was always last to leave the school grounds and that many times he feared for her safety but that she was always well looked after.

“She had good relations with many people and they would also look out for in and around the school grounds,” he said.

Principal Edgar N Magaar said the farewell was a token of their appreciation as a staff, colleagues, pupils and parents for the impact Ms Hess had on them during their encounters with her.

“The caring way in which she has always dealt with our learners and interact with other staff members has made a big impression on me,” he said.

The Western Cape Education Department also acknowledged Ms Hess’s 40-years of service along with other long service awards at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in 2017.