Former Pretoria News editor Val Boje would ’read just about everything’
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Pretoria - Former Pretoria News editor Val Bojé loved books, as much as she loved newspapers. She used to say her father, Dr John Bojé, had introduced her to reading at a young age.
She had posted a picture of herself, sitting on her father’s lap as a baby, “reading” her first newspaper.
She and a group of friends ran a book club for many years, as long-time friend Elaine Ash recalled: ““Val loved books and reading, and she read just about everything, although I don’t think she was too keen on some of the detective and thriller sort that I like.
“Back in the mid-1990s, someone in our group had the bright idea to start a book club. We consisted of a few Pretoria News friends/colleagues, and one or two friends of those friends.
“We held it once a month on a Friday and took turns to host it. There was one rule, as we were all working women – no cooking.
“A bookstore had a club membership that could be joined for free and it let us take home books to choose before paying for them. Each month, the hostess chose a selection of books and took them home on appro.
“Our book club ladies would then vote on the books on offer, with a mark of 1 to 5.
“Those with the highest score, and if were in our affordable range – we all contributed a monthly amount to the book club – we bought.
“We tried to be grown-up about discussing the books we read, like Oprah, but it didn’t last long.
“Eventually, as we got to know who liked what, we would just return our books to the box with a comment or two to the group, ‘oh, this was good, so and so, you will like this’.
“We spent an hour or two on the books, and for the rest of the time just had a good time chatting and catching up and laughing.
“No one I spoke to can remember when it came to an end.”
Another friend, Tania Stapelberg, said the first Friday of the month was book night.
“It started out as the Hazelwood Book Club as one of the founding members lived in the area. Years later it was changed to the Nicola Brown Book Club in memory of one of the members.
“If you believe her daughter, Christine, it was more club than books, and everyone would just sit around on the floor drinking wine with two books on the table.
“I joined the book club a couple of years after it started and fell right into the spirit of camaraderie. Although there was wine, the books were important and we did chat about the books.
“As we took turns hosting and choosing books, there was an opportunity to read a wide variety of authors and genres. nIt was all very informal. We all packed up laughing one evening when someone reported that her friend’s book club kept minutes.
“We just managed to write the titles of the new books we bought in a black book and what titles the various members had taken.
“Val was always keen to see what books had made it to the Booker and Sunday Times lists and many worthy books made it into the club’s library.
“Our library was a large plastic crate that would be hauled from house to house each month. When it got too heavy, the older books would find their way to hospice.
“Everyone left the meeting rejuvenated and happy (and not from the alcohol). It was a diverse group who came together through our love of books and the stories they told.
“With a number of the members working at the Pretoria News and on shifts, it became more and more difficult to host meetings, and eventually it just stopped.
“But we all think back fondly to those Friday nights, the books and the laughter (and the wine).”
* Retired Pretoria News sub-editor Joubert Malherbe also paid tribute to Val.
Having met Val at the start of the 1980s, when we both covered the magistrate’s court (she for the Pretoria News, naturally), I would also like to pay tribute to and lament the loss of this fine human being.
I worked on the Rand Daily Mail and left the country in 1983 to live and work in the UK for 12 years.
I returned to South Africa in 1995 to start work on the Pretoria News, where I was happy to find my old friend still plying her trade. It was an honour to get a job on the paper which I had been reading all my life and to work under Val, first as chief sub and then editor.
My wife, Fay, also worked on the Pretoria News for some of the time.
I carried on until my retirement in 2018 during which time I penned well over 1 000 columns (mainly on Saturdays), titled “Laid Back”, much of the time while Val was the editor.
As older readers will know, I often quoted rock songs – mainly Bob Dylan – to illustrate a point and comment on some or other news event. Val would often suggest song titles that I could use as they pertained to a particular issue … and it always worked.
As an aside: our parental homes in which we grew up stood a block from each other in Brooklyn; hers in Mackenzie Street; mine in Marais, about 150m apart. I was also privileged to attend
Val and Roy’s wedding which, if memory serves, was held in their garden.
I shall miss her and leave with a quote from a Dylan song: “When the storm clouds gather ’round you, and heavy rains descend ... just remember that death is not the end.”
Condolences to family, friends and colleagues.