Farewell to ‘The Pope’

ME­MO­RIAL SER­VICE: Over 500 gather to mourn Dusi leg­end’s death

Weekend Witness - - News - LLOYD BURNARD

HUN­DREDS of peo­ple gath­ered at the Hil­ton Col­lege chapel yes­ter­day for the me­mo­rial ser­vice of Graeme Pope-El­lis, who died last Thurs­day, at the age of 62 in a tragic ac­ci­dent while driv­ing his trac­tor on his Ta­ble Moun­tain farm road out­side Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

Chairs were set on the lawn out­side the chapel, which was filled to ca­pac­ity, where mourn­ers lis­tened to a live sound feed of the cer­e­mony.

The ser­vice was led by the Reverend Ron Ni­col­son.

Pope-El­lis’s wife, Wendy, also spoke to the con­gre­ga­tion. “He was taken too soon. He was my first and only love and the rock around which my life re­volved,” said Wendy PopeEl­lis.

“One night he told me that he would be lost with­out me if I had to go first and I am glad that he has not had to go through the same pain and suf­fer­ing that we have all gone through.

“He will leave an enor­mous void that no­body will ever be able to fill,” she said.

Fam­ily friends and pad­dlers who had raced with and against Pope-El­lis, in­clud­ing Martin Dreyer, also spoke.

Dreyer was clearly emo­tional. “Pope, I want to be just like you,” he sobbed. “He taught me how to pay at­ten­tion to de­tail, how to have dis­ci­pline and that hard work will al­ways pay off. I owe my first Dusi win com­pletely to him.

“He was my fa­ther away from home.”

Sim­i­lar trib­utes, all of an emo­tional na­ture, were made by the likes of Lloyd Darby, An­thony Ed­monds, Charles Ma­son and Rick Whit­ton, who shared sto­ries and fond mem­o­ries of their time with “The Pope”.

One of Pope-El­lis’s fiercest com- pe­ti­tors dur­ing the 1980s and four­time Dusi win­ner, John Ed­monds, was also present.

“I was eight or nine whenI be­came aware of who he was and he be­came an in­spi­ra­tion for us all,” he said.

“It is a huge loss to all of us here. He was an ex­am­ple to ev­ery­one and was never ar­ro­gant, in vic­tory or in de­feat. There will never be a Dusi where his name is not men­tioned. He is the bench­mark, the fab­ric of the whole his­tory of the event.”

Son Lee Pope-El­lis shared some thoughts about his fa­ther.

“He was an in­cred­i­ble fa­ther, and not just to me,” he said.

“He is still with us in spirit and in the mem­o­ries we have of him.”

Pope-El­lis won­the three-day Hansa Pow­er­ade Dusi 15 times dur­ing his dom­i­nance of the race in the 1970s and ’80s.

PHO­TOS: MARK WING

Wendy Pope­El­lis at her hus­band’s me­mo­rial ser­vice, which took place at the Hil­ton Col­lege Chapel yes­ter­day. More than 500 peo­ple at­tended the ser­vice.

Martin Dreyer paid an emo­tional trib­ute to ‘Pope’.

John Ed­monds: ‘He was an ex­am­ple to ev­ery­one’.

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