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Tutu pays tribute to ‘a devoted father’

Cape Town - A “dastardly act, so devastating, so utterly senseless” was how Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu described the murder of respected architect, sailor and family man Rob Meek.

Tutu was addressing a gathering of relatives, friends and colleagues at St George’s Cathedral who bade farewell to Meek who was laid to rest on Thursday.

Rob Meek's coffin bore a sign that read "Gone Sailing". Photo: Henk Kruger. Credit: INLSA

The cathedral was packed to capacity with mourners standing in the doorways and sitting on the steps of the altar.

Meek, 62, was described as a man who was respected for his coolness and integrity.

Meek, his wife Di, daughters Louise and Claudia and a small group of friends had gathered on the stoep of a rented holiday cottage on Transkei’s ruggedly beautiful Wild Coast to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

At the stroke of midnight, the party was accosted by three armed men with balaclavas, who ordered them to the ground. A shot was fired, hitting Meek in the groin.

The family had planned to return to Cape Town in time for the start of the Cape2Rio yacht race.

Tutu questioned why such an act could happen to such a devoted father and husband, and he spoke fondly of Meek’s visits with Di to the cathedral.

Close family friend Pat Goss said Meek had left “a substantial legacy of beautiful things” he had created in Cape Town, in Knysna and in other places, but that his most beautiful legacy was his children.

Referring to the day Meek died, Goss spoke of how three “misguided youths” had made their way to the deck, presumably to rob the family, how one single shot was fired and how they left without taking a single thing.

“What a terrible waste,” he said.

“Hamba Ngoxolo – Go in Peace dear Rob… we shall celebrate your life for a long, long time to come.”

Colleague Erky Wood described Meek as having a critical mind.

“He spoke less of his own work but highly of others’ work,” he said.

He quipped about sailing misadventures with Meek and how Meek often poked fun at himself.

He noted how, messages of support to the family described Meek as a gentle man, committed, professional and a mentor.

“We have lost Rob here and now, but we will never lose his spirit to what is right and true.”

Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind was sung by Chris Shaw and Dave Bryant, and Freshlyground singer Zolani Mahola led the congregation in a rendition of Amazing Grace.

In a moving tribute, his daughters Louise and Claudia remembered their father’s words of encouragement and advice, his love for liquorice, poetry and music, and joked how he wore his wetsuit backwards with the zip in the front.

“Because ‘that’s what sailors do,’ he said,” the sisters said.

On behalf of his sailing friends, Phil Gutsche bade farewell to his fellow crewman who he said had lived “a full sailing life”. Gutsche said his death had brought tears to many hardened sailors.

Meek had participated in almost every yachting event South Africa had to offer.

A memorial service was held later at the Royal Cape Yacht Club in the harbour.

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