Love of life and her not wanting to leave it

South Africa: WELL-known Kimberley resident and former school teacher, Pat Crossley, died recently in the city at the age of 93.

Crossley, nee Welsh, was born in the Eastern Cape and spent her childhood and youth there and in the Transkei, with her parents, two stepbrothers and a stepsister and her sister Margaret.

The country life, with lots of animals and plenty of freedom to wander around in nature, remained with her and influenced her life positively. She attended a Convent boarding school (which, according to her family, she hated and told horrible stories about, especially as she got older).

After matriculating she attended the Teachers’ Training College in Grahamstown where she made lifelong friends, including another well-known Kimberley personality, Marge Pressley.

She discovered her singing talent at this time and was advised to go to Milan to train further, but the family could not afford this, so it was that she remained in South Africa during the war and shortly after took her first teaching post in Kimberley, at Beaconsfield Primary School.

When she fell ill, her father wrote her one of his very few letters, saying she should come home, but she remained, recovered and one day went on a blind date with Frank Crossley. Frank, at that time a traffic officer, took her to Alexandersfontein for a evening of dancing. This was another of her talents.

Only a few months later the couple were married in Port Alfred, from her parents’ house. It was January 1, the day after Franks birthday . . . so he couldn’t forget their anniversary.

That was the beginning of family life in Kimberley. The couple’s children, Liz, Frank and later Anthony, all grew up at 3 McInnes Street. The family members were generous with their time, energy and the space, to the point where the house was once referred to as Liberty Hall.

Crossley continued to teach at Gore Brown Training College, Christian Brothers’ College, Belgravia Junior and Girls’ High, always picking up fans among her pupils. She was particularly good at remedial teaching and had a great deal of empathy with those who were struggling, probably partially because of her own mild dyslexia.

She was, from childhood, a collector. When the family went on beach holidays she would head for the shoreline and collect shells to swell her childhood collection. Only later, when the family started documenting her collection, did they realise how scientifically she had organised it over the years.

Once she retired from teaching she had more time to devote to her many hobbies and developed her visual and haptic side with ceramics.

“This small person, with a great spirit, has gone,” her daughter, Liz Crossley, said.

“At her wake, her smile, her chuckle, her love of people, her chirpy cheerfulness, her unconventional dress and behaviour, particularly as she got older, were mentioned again and again. The words, bouncy and bubbly were used . . . love of life and her not wanting to leave it. She was tenacious, with a great will to live, clear faith and the courage of one plagued by deep anxieties.

“She survived and thrived after a severe heart attack at 61, cancer at 84 and many more crises since 2012. So amazing was her ability to pop up again and again, that we thought she’d keep doing it forever.”

By: Patsy Beangstrom

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