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ESME TITUS – CELEBRATING THE PEOPLE OF SWELLENDAM

ESME TITUS: OUTSTANDING ACADEMIC AND MANAGER OF NURSING SERVICES Esme Kennel (néé Titus) was born in Bloemfontein in the Free State, but is regarded as fully-fledged Swellendammer because her family relocated to Swellendam when she was four years old. She attended St Luke’s Primary school and proceeded to Belgravia High School in Cape Town to complete her school education.

Esme’s father, Michael Titus, was an accomplished carpenter, who worked as a foreman for a company that built hospitals and prisons in the Overberg. Her mother, Irene, was a nurse in training who became a homemaker. When they arrived in Swellendam her family of five children lived in a very small house until their father had built them a house in Cooper Street, which was later bought by George Muller. Unfortunately, her parents separated one month before the final examinations and they were accommodated by Jeanie Montague (the grandmother of Lionel Arries) until the end of the school year. Consequently, they went to live with their uncle, Joe Titus, and his family in George and later Crawford. This period was very unsettling to all of them, but their uncle and aunt treated them like their own children and looked so well after them that they remained with them until they got married.

She married Frank Kennel, an educator who became the principal of Grassdale Senior Secondary School in Grassy Park, fifty-two years ago. They have three daughters and three granddaughters. Two daughters live in England and Indonesia, respectively. The eldest one lives close to the parents in Cape Town, after having lived in the United Kingdom for nine years. Esme qualified as a registered nurse by doing diplomas in General Nursing and Midwifery. Consequently, she completed a Diploma (UWC), a Bachelor’s degree (Community Health and Education) and an Advanced Diploma (UNISA) ; two Honours degrees, as well as a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (University of Stellenbosch), while building her career and being an efficient wife and mother. Apart from these qualifications she did shorter courses in fields related to computers, information engineering, epidemiology and community eye health. She even did a course as a Foot Care (Chiropody} Practitioner at SMAE College in Berkshire in the United Kingdom after she retired.

This lady was not only a diligent student but has just never stopped studying. She worked as a general nurse and midwife; lecturer at UWC; chief nursing service manager in the Department of Health responsible for School Health, Psychiatry, Day Hospitals and Geriatric Care and retired as a deputy director (DD) of health in Nursing; Information Management, HIV and Aids, Health Promotion and Chronic Care and Geriatrics. In this regard she received an award for Eye Care from the Minister of Health. She served on various provincial and national boards and committees, was a moderator and examiner for two universities, was invited as a guest lecturer in Comparative Policy Analysis (the subject of her Master’s thesis) at the University of Stellenbosch and wrote several policy documents relating to nursing in this country. She is still rendering a domiciliary foot care service for persons with diabetes. Furthermore, she did locums as a professional nurse at Wynberg and Sun Valley Pharmacies till recently when Covid 19 started and her husband became frail.

Her community activities have been extensive. She served as a member, vice-chairperson, chairperson or secretary of the following Non-Profit Organisations: Community Partnership Programme (CCP) Kellogg’s Foundation; Epilepsy SA; Resource and Development Foundation; GH Starke Home for the Aged; Grassy Park Centre for Mentally and Intellectually Challenged Persons. She worked closely with the Diabetes Association and did a lot of Diabetes and Cancer awareness programmes. She joined the Newlands Lions Club in 2006 and has served it in various senior positions. Consequently, she has received an International Gingko Award (as the Lion who Best Exemplifies Move to Grow); A Louis Volks Award and a Melvin Jones Award. She served on the Parish Council of St Saviours Church Claremont, was a sides person and reader and sang in the Church Choir, the Gleemoor Ladies Choir and the Symphony Choir in Cape Town.

She is a keen reader and loves music. She is learning to play the classical guitar and hopes to write Grade 5 theory of music when exams reopen after Covid 19. She loves crafts, knitting, sewing, crocheting and cooking. She has become a keen gardener while at home during retirement. At the age of 74, she ensures that her husband, who needs constant care, is well looked after. In addition, she is preparing to provide foot care to patients in a room that she has converted into a treatment centre in her home. Esme exemplifies a spirit that is sorely needed by the youth of today. Her indomitable drive to be good at what she does, has carried her to levels which she might not have known about when she grew up in Swellendam. The many challenges she has faced in her life, did not weaken her, but inspired her to become a more committed Christian and to make the most of the opportunities she is given.

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