Tribute to an ‘Unsung hero’

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Unsung hero

Unsung hero

Three days ago I received the tragic news of the passing of a dear friend and ‘Unsung hero’ Heather Clark. Google has numerous meanings for the word ‘friend’. However for the purposes of this blog and my sentiments in it I use these 3 to define my relationship with Heather.

1. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter:

3. A person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile:
I believe these adequately describe the relationship I had with Heather. The extraordinary thing is that although I was at the same school with Heather in the early 1970’s I didn’t have contact with her again until a couple of years ago. True to who she was, this contact with me, was to ask me (she’s heard I pray for people!) to pray for a couple she knew of through a friend, who were really struggling.
It was through this initial cry out from her for someone else I began a friend relationship with Heather. I got to know her better as she moved from a very difficult situation in a neighbouring country, Botswana. She had moved to the coastal city East London here in South Africa, arriving with her 2 cars, a caravan, her old dog and cat.
There are so many things I could write in tribute to Heather but probably her greatest asset to me, was her rare transparency and honesty. Heather wore her heart on her sleeve…tattooed there….for all to see…friends and strangers alike. When she was up, she was up….and when she was down…she was, open for all to see….down!!!
I don’t want to portray Heather as a saint as she was, by her own words as well, a flawed human being like us all. She had her hangups, her idiosyncrasies, stubbornness and strong will, which at times caused friction, hurt and misunderstanding, even with those close to her. But Heather was a beautiful soul!
As a struggling ‘gypsy’ (she didn’t mind me calling her that) she had moved around trying to find a ‘happy place’ for her and her precious animals. However it was a difficult, painful and very draining journey for Heather. In our conversations, she spoke of her pain, her joys, but especially her amazement at how “earthly angels” as she termed them, had responded to her needs and proved themselves true ‘friends’ by standing with her, emotionally, spiritually or in a practical way.
Heather had no steady form of income, but was an amazingly talented creative person. She was a ‘one woman band’ who played gigs in her newly adopted city with a repertoire of literally thousands of songs in many different genre’s. She was also incredibly artistic, producing beautiful work, from cross-stitch, to painting, right through to ‘palm trees’ from paper mache’ and a bath for her newly built “Buckingham Pallets”.
Buckingham pallets 2
This building will be indelibly ingrained in my mind and soul when I think of Heather. In one of Heather’s recent very trying times…she had been kicked out of a previous shaky accommodation, had found a caravan park to call home and been given a slab of concrete to create a home. In Heather’s indomitable spirit, she proceeded, with very scarce resources due to pressing bills, to find what she could, to build a home.
At this time there were many who were following Heather’s exploits on Facebook and many were agog, perplexed and yet in awe of this warrior, who refused to give up! She started to build out of plastic tarpaulins, scraps and what was her main material “pallets’! I gave her the nickname ‘Robyn’ Crusoe as I watched her building project. I contacted a friend I knew in construction and asked if he could assist her. He related to me that when he got there he found Heather using a deckchair as a workbench and a small saw to hack away at a pallet for one of the walls!! That was Heather.
Her work table

Her work table

With, or without help, she was going to build a home!! I’m thankful my friend was able to bring 2 of his men and together with Heather, helped her to construct an amazing home, which extended from her caravan using the tarpaulin as a main cover over the main structure. Heather was so proud of her new ‘digs’ she put a word out to Facebook asking for a name. Ultimately she chose what became an iconic and most fitting name which gives huge tribute to a true fighter with a beautiful heart. She called it Buckingham Pallets”.
 But Heather wasn’t finished and continued to better and beautify her home, making lamp stands, flower and herb gardens and even a bath with its own unique tap and drain!!
Buckingham Pallets

to this……Buckingham Pallets

   From this....
    From this….
 At this point I know there were many people coming alongside Heather in her quest for happiness and peace. However I have to single out one particular lady, Lyn Radloff Grossberg, who had known Heather from school days. Lyn became a strong, willing and generous supporter of Heather in the days she had moved to East London. I can’t talk for Lyn and all that helping Heather entailed. I do know it was at times frustrating, problematic, challenging and discouraging, however right to the last, Lyn was reaching out to Heather, being the catalyst to getting her to a doctor when Heather’s health had gone so quickly downhill late last week.

Heather's handmade bathroom

Heather’s handmade bathroom

Lyn’s intervention as a friend, in the truest sense of the word, (despite running her own company), on numerous occasions pulled Heather out of the quicksand and gave her hope. Along with the support and prayers of friends, without Lyn’s continued support of Heather, I have no doubt, she would have succumbed some time ago to the enormous challenges she faced.

Sadly On Thursday last week Heather was admitted to Hospital with suspected Meningitis, suffered an Aneurysm leading to a stroke and in the early hours of Friday morning, she succumbed to her condition. I am convinced, from some of the conversations I had with Heather,  that she had a faith in Jesus Christ and I believe she is now singing in the choir..or perhaps even leading it, before her Saviour.
The response to Heather’s passing on, has been nothing short of amazing. People who knew her (and many who didn’t) have poured out their hearts in tribute to and sorrow at her passing. Heather was a person who really desired and need support but at the same time probably didn’t realise what a huge, positive impact she had on so many. Her fighting spirit, almost daily one liners from the many songs she knew and touching as well as hilarious comments are imprinted in our souls.  She truly was an ‘Unsung hero’.
A HUGE lesson we can all learn from her passing is to keep short accounts with people and by all means, try to keep relationships civil at least…once someone is gone its too late to make right. We fall short but amazingly are offered forgiveness through the grace of Jesus Christ. Before we leave this earth we all have opportunity to receive it.
Good bye my dear ‘gypsy girl’, Robyn Crusoe, ‘Unsung hero’ Heather. You will be in my book that’s in process and I thank you for the richness you added to my life and many others. Sing with the Angels :-)
Go to for 4 of Heather’s songs
Her Lion embroidery

Her Lion embroidery

  Painting               Heather the musician

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One thought on “Tribute to an ‘Unsung hero’

  1. Ray you have given a really beautiful and oh so accurate account of Heather’s life – that part of which we have become familiar and a part of. She certainly was an amazing person, I think she could put many of us to shame with her tenacity to complete that which she had started. I know we are still all reeling from her passing away. I know I can still not get my mind around how quickly one can go – one can understand it easier or accept it, if she has been killed in a car accident – but this way – due to the inadequacy of our country, in reality South Africa let her down, and that is what is so shameful and hard to come to grips with. She will be missed by so many who had had the privilege to meet and talk with her in person. Lyn was her mainstay in so many ways – the UPS and the DOWNS – and so to Lyn we all say THANK YOU. Heather is Out of Our Earthly Vision, but into the Spiritual Vision of those who wait on the other side. Thanks Heather for everything. R.I.P Girl….

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