05 Jul A Tribute For Roy Mark Cox
My name is Celeste Stewart and I am the eldest daughter of Douglas and Cynthia Richards. Today I have the absolute privilege of doing the tribute of Roy Mark Cox. Thank you to everyone who agreed to grant me this opportunity. I want to say upfront that I will be speaking on behalf of our immediate family, that being Douglas, Cynthia, Shane, Isaiah, Sebastian, Megan, Kim, Nico and Ethan. As one does when you do a tribute, I will be speaking about the amazing character of Roy. To facilitate this, I will be drawing on some stories, our personal stories with Roy. I encourage you to also think about your own stories whilst I do the tribute. We all have our own encounters with Roy and though your stories may not be articulated today, it doesn’t make it any less important. Roy would not have wanted that.
Roy Mark Cox was born on the 18 August 1966. My mom says that when he was born, the nurse who assisted my granny (Roy’s mother) completely fell inlove with his beautiful child and asked my granny to name him Roy. I find it interesting that on birth, he already had people fall inlove with him. His character shone through from Day 1. He then was gifted the name Roy which means King.
Roy had two biological parents being Martha and Ronald, also known as mamma and dowie. He is one of 11 children and also happens to be the youngest child. When my parents moved into their own place, and Roy was very young, my grandfather asked my mom if Roy could spend weekends with us. My mother agreed and this is where the special bond was solidified. We inherited a big brother. Roy got the bonus of another two parents in my mother and father. My father treated him as one of us. The integration with our family was a seamless one. Weekends turned into school holidays and before you know it, the arrangement was more permanent.
My parents, as with the rest of our broader family, have been absolutely gutted by Roy’s sudden passing. To my mother, Roy was her child. All she ever wanted for him was him to be healthy and to be happy. My father also loved Roy dearly. He knew him for 48 years and says that Roy was so much more than and brother in law. He was like a younger brother, a friend, a working colleague, the son he never had and then off course, a huge All Black supporter. Both my parents commented on the fact that Roy was always helpful and never disrespectful. Given our past Apartheid system, my father thought he’d never ever go to Newlands to watch a game of rugby. But Roy changed his mind and persuaded him to go to Newlands. They had wonderful times together that my parents will treasure forever. The rugby and then the after party, was always the best. My dad will miss his son and his buddy. My mom will miss her baby. She will miss his chats, she will miss making some of his favourite foods, the laughter, recalling the same stories over and over again, and laughing like it’s being told for the first time, she will miss them scolding but then talking to each other again a few minutes thereafter, she will miss them going to different families to provide them with food and functional goods to keep the family ticking over. She will also miss their conversations about food and how he would tease her about these healthy remedies she would read about in her books. Funnily enough, he eventually also started taking natural and homeopathic remedies. My mother loved him dearly. It is said that the hardest thing for a parent to do, is to bury their own child. This aptly describes the pain and hurt my parents feel right now. Roy will forever live in their hearts but the fact that he will never again walk through the doors, come into our house, make silly jokes, join the festivities, buy samosas and penny polonies etc, – is something we will never fully come to terms with. His physical absence will be felt for many, many years to come.
My father’s family also met Roy and learnt to love him. Some of them have joined the livestream to pay their last respects and others even came to the church ground just to see the vehicle carrying his coffin, to pay their last respects. We really appreciate that support and gesture.
Roy has been working at sea for most of his life. Roy started his career helping out in the Kitchen on passenger ships and telling us he peeled way too many potatoes. He started as a galley boy and worked his way up the ranks to a tiger stewart, looking after the captain and the distinguished passengers on the passenger liners. He was always popular and loved by them. He was passionate about cooking, people and the All Blacks.
He truly loved the fact that he could work and travel at the same time. We hated it whenever Roy departed on one of his long trips away. We missed him dearly and always worried about his safety. But the highlight was when he returned. Back in the day, before we had Whatsapp etc, we would hear that the ship he was on, was a couple of days out which meant we would see him soon. Seeing Roy would make us so happy. Sometimes we didn’t know he was home. I clearly remember him surprising us once and Kim and I were walking home from school. Coming up the driveway at our house in Mitchells Plan, I saw his face and his gorgeous smile. Kim and I started screaming and running towards him. I remember throwing my backpack off my back because I was so happy. Roy couldn’t stop laughing at that. I had to go and locate my backpack thereafter. But his smile made everything worthwhile. Megan was so young at the time but she too, developed a deep connection with Roy, who is also her godfather. Roy would take us to Milky Lane and say we could order anything. We felt like queens when this happened! It was like Christmas. Obviously we loved the treat but more importantly, was the fact that he was there with us. The real present and gift was his presence. But then we would go home and my mother would be really upset because it meant that we didn’t want to eat the homemade food she cooked. Roy would pre-empt this and also made sure he bought samosas and a King cone as a way of apologizing to my mom. My father just laughed it off.
Roy was a great story teller. As a child, Roy would relay travel stories and it would transport us to a different world. This would ultimately inspire us to travel and for Kim – to travel and work abroad. We would have long chats about travelling and all the countries he has been to. In one of her last conversations with Roy, Kim was surprised to discover that Roy had even been to North Korea. He never boasted about the things he did and all his experiences.
Roy also loved staying in touch with everyone. For us as a family, getting a call at 3am was never a worrying thing. It often meant that the ship he was on had docked somewhere and Roy was now making a call. But he would make reverse calls. So the phone would ring, we would answer, you’d hear someone say something in a very foreign accent and we would just say YES. Usually the script was …. “This is person X, calling from Japan, do you accept the reverse charges for Roy”. We would already be screaming at this stage and then Roy would come onto the line. There would be very long conversations. Roy would speak to us, then he would invite his friends to also come say hello to his family. When we had a dog, he would ask that the dog ‘sing’ on the phone and he would be laughing on the other end. All of this off course, on our account. But it didn’t matter because the joy of hearing his voice and knowing he was ok, made everything worthwhile.
More recently and thanks to social media, it was so easy to get in contact with Roy wherever he was in the world. Sometimes we would just pop him a message knowing that he might be out at sea but that he would read when he was able to. On one level it was about the message but on another level, it was about letting him know that we thought about him all the time.
Roy loved introducing his friends to our family. His friends, became our friends. Our home became their home. To date we are still in contact with some of his buddies from the early days on sea. And his friends always knew about his sister, brother in law and his 3 daughters as he fondly referred to my sisters and I.
Maya Angelou is famous for saying “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will NEVER forget how you made them feel”. I think this perfectly describes Roy. When you engaged with him, he left an imprint in your heart that would last a very long time. He treated everyone the same, whether you were a homeless person, or the captain of the ship. Roy’s mission was to help the poor and vulnerable. He regularly identified families in the community who needed assistance. We were always in awe of two things:
1) He gave them the best quality food presented so beautifully
2) He never spoke about the good deeds he so willingly did for others
Roy would often drive around and he’d stop and give the homeless people food and money. But he never just gave the money and drove off. He would stop, talk to them, give them some money then carry on. I think the reason he did this was because he wanted to make people feel like people, especially those who were marginalised in society, those who were judged harshly and those who were looked down upon, as lesser than the rest of us. I think he did that because a) he had a soft heart but also b) because he knew what it was like to be judged harshly due to his relationship with alcohol. I think sometimes people thought less of him yet his good heart and unpretentiousness, made him far more empathic than most people who hide behind self-imposed titles. Roy decided to be the change in the world. He understood how small acts of kindness make a big difference in the world. He brought a sense of relief and joy to many. I’m sure he helped other families but never spoke about it. That is his legacy, do good acts for others without boasting about it. Try to make a difference by helping the poor and vulnerable, no matter how small.
I think we can ALL take a leaf out of his book and apply this to own our lives.
Roy loved wildlife and animals. Back in the day, he bought a few National Geographic VHS videos that made its rounds in the family. The favourite one being of snakes. That video was so informative and really taught us so much about snakes. Speaking of snakes, I’ll never forget the one day my mom told him there was a snake in their current house, in the bathroom. Roy didn’t think twice. He made some smoke to try and force the snake out. Next thing, he stuck in hand in a gap and felt around for this snake. He really hoped to catch the snake and release it in the field. Bare hands I tell you. I watched in awe as he was not afraid of the snake at all.
And then there is the funny story about the slug. Roy went through a phase of eating lots of snacks late at night. One night he was eating and the light was off. He was determined to finish all the snacks at his bedside. He thought he finished everything, when he felt what he thought to be another sweet. He put the “sweet” in his mouth and realised it wasn’t a sweet when he bit down on the slug in his mouth. The slug secreted a black liquid and Roy jumped up. We laughed as he recalled the story, at how he brushed his tongue for an hour after that trying to get rid of the taste on his tongue and how it only went away after a week. Gosh, so many funny stories that we will forever treasure.
Roy loved seeing people succeed. I remember when I went completely solo and started my business. I only started telling people when my business had reached the one-year mark. I remember how happy Roy was when I broke the news to me. I immediately felt that he wished me well. That was Roy, he loved seeing people succeed and reach their goals. He felt genuine happiness for others. Nico (Kim’s husband) echoes this sentiment and says “I will always remember how Roy started crying from happiness when Kim told him she was expecting. To me this reflected his love for the family as a whole. It is good to know that he was loved, and that he received the love back that he gave”.
Roy did not like dancing. But he went through a phase of dancing at our lekker family parties. He would do the pantsula and the cousins would all be screaming when Roy hit the dance floor!
Now, Roy also had a DEEP love for the All Blacks. He had a humble nature until you spoke badly about his beloved All Blacks. If you wanted to get on his bad side, you would mess with his beloved All Blacks, with his beloved silver fern. I always remember him telling us a story about a couple in Clicks who were either racist or were making comments at him because he was wearing his All Blacks t-shirt. Roy sorted out the husband and wife. He eventually just left the store but tells us about how the wife tried to jump on his back while he punched the husband, in an unsuccessful attempt to stop him.
Going to Newlands with my dad and Roy is very entertaining and also rather stressful. When you arrive there with them, you’ll see how they connect with all the other All Blacks supporters. Off course, as luck would have it, the beloved Springbok supporter would always be very close to him. Before you know it, the verbal spat would start. And when his beloved sister Cynthia was with, he would soema bliksem you if you messed with his sister.
It was a great honour to be invited to his surprise 50th birthday party a few years back. At his party we got to make a speech about Roy. You could just see how emotional he got, hearing how much he meant to us. I think sometimes we under-estimate the value and power of words. Looking back now and seeing the tears in his eyes when we spoke, I’m so glad we made those speeches. Because his reaction tells me that our words touched his heart. He knew he was loved. And that’s provides some comfort during this horrible time.
Roy also loved his wife, Cindy. As a family, we appreciate everything that has been done to give Roy the send-off he deserves. It’s a shame that it needed to be done under so many restrictions and during a time when my parents were ill too. But I can only reconcile this and say that maybe everything happened exactly the way it was meant to. Besides, Roy didn’t like people to fuss about him. That was not what he was about.
When I first started dating Kim, she used to tell me everything about her family. She also told me about Roy, who she described felt like a brother to her. When I met him eventually, I could see why she loved him so much. I could also see the excitement everyone, not just Kim felt when Roy would be coming home from sea and they would see him again.
Before I became part of the family and got to know everyone, I was always told about a certain uncle who was like a big brother whom you didn’t want to mess with. As a guy its normal to then feel intimidated by this persona when coming in as an outsider. Not only did I have to gain the approval of the dad but also the uncle/big brother. Roy’s persona couldn’t be any further from this initial perception. Yes, he was a big brother and yes you did not want to get onto the wrong footing with him, especially about his beloved All Blacks, but I never needed to be fearful of that. Roy and I just clicked. He had a very respectful, welcoming and dignified manner about him. In his own unassuming way people would naturally just gravitate to him. Over the years I got to know Roy better as he and I shared many long chats about various topics. Roy would visit and our chats would go on well into the night and early hours of the morning. Often I would be half asleep but Roy would still be chatting! I used to feel bad about it sometimes but Roy would just laugh about it. Roy always used to say to me, “I like talking to you Shane, you talk sense” I always appreciated that. He was very knowledgeable about many topics and up to date with what was happening around the world. Yet he never made a big fuss about having acquired all this knowledge nor boast about the places he had seen during his travels. The boys used to love listening to him and talking to him about all sorts of topics especially nature and wildlife and as Isaiah got older, about cricket and football. Isaiah, who supports Man City, remembers Roy teasing him a bit when Liverpool finally won the league. Roy would often just sit and listen to them talking about various topics and then say how impressed he was as to how mature the kids of today are.
Besides Celeste, Roy became my cricket companion after the passing of my father in 2012. It took me a long time to go back to Newlands to watch the test matches after my dad’s passing as it was our ritual, but when I eventually did, Roy became the person that went with me and the boys. He filled a void and I am glad to have had an opportunity to tell him about the ritual that my dad and I had. He knew what it meant to me and without me telling him that he was now filling that void I think that he knew this. He would often be the one to ask if we’re going to Newlands.
We always used to laugh about the one match that we attended to watch SA vs AUS, with the Proteas having to bat out the last day to save the match. Unlike myself, Roy was not a Proteas supporter and he was always backing the opposition which I didn’t have an issue with. This time round he was wanting the Aussies to win. With half an hour left on the last day’s play it looked like SA was about to pull off a draw. A very unhappy Roy decided that he had had enough and said that he was off, greeted and went on his way. About 10 minutes later SA lost a wicket and then another one shortly thereafter. Not long before I knew it Roy was sitting next to me again! He said that he got to the exit gates, heard the crowd and announcement of the wicket falling and decided to come back. The boys also were very fond of Roy and they will cherish the lunch breaks during play where he used to join them on the field to play cricket and the ice lollies and snacks that he would treat them with.
Roy also got my sense of humour and I would often tease him when he came to visit by asking him “Roy can I offer you a cup of tea?” I would just get a look and a frown followed by a “What do you mean tea? Dougie, hoe kan hy vir my tea offer?” On other occasions when he would complement Celeste or mommy on their newly acquired hairstyle etc. he would say “I like your hair like that” and I would respond with a “Ahh thank you Roy I did it myself” as if he was complimenting me. Roy would just laugh and smile.
I will always remember Roy for his humility, his caring nature and willingness to stand up for those who could not do so for themselves. He never sought any credit for what he did and always just carried on in his unassuming manner.
Roy made lives so much fun and we will always cherish the memories. His love for us was unconditional, as ours for him. Our lives will never be the same without you Roy and our bond will never be broken. While we are mourning the loss of our brother, the impact of his life extends beyond our family and is more than we will ever know. He helped so many people in need and would never speak about it, we would only find out when some of those people shared how much his kindness meant. We will continue your legacy by helping those in need.
In conclusion, Roy never said goodbye when he greeted you. In fact, he disliked the word “goodbye”. He always said “see you” when he left. Roy, I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say I hope one day I will see you again. While we are here, will always raise a toast to you. We will always think about you when your beloved All Blacks are playing a game, when we are having a gathering and when we’re in the kitchen at mommy and daddy’s house, where you liked to stand and tell stories. You’ve done what you needed and so much more. You’ve been a better human than most people and have left massive shoes to fill. I doubt any of us can have the kind of impact and reach you had. You made it look easy dude. But we know that you have now handed the baton on to us. And boy oh boy, does the world need more people like you right now. Your death, as painful and confusing as it is, is an opportunity for all of us to take the foundation work you’ve done and scale it up. Let’s amplify the goodness. We owe that to you and the world is in desperate need of it.
We love you Roy.
I hope in your final moments, you knew that and you felt it. I hope all the love that exists for you, carried your soul to a peaceful place. You’ve been in the arena and now you get to sit in the stands and cheer us on.
Maya Angelou says “I come as one but I stand as 10 000”. Roy, you are now our guardian angel and ancestor. As Anthea reminded me recently, we can always still talk to you. Please expect LOTS of conversations from all of us. Our love for you will never die. Our connection with you, will only grow stronger.
Always in our hearts.