In Memory

Robin Stranack

Robin Stranack was an amiable and sociable classmate. His family name was a familiar one in Natal because they owned Stranacks, the leading store for reftrigerators and other appliances.  Robin had originally entered Kearsney for his high school education, but a severe bout of rheumatic fever set back his progress, and he was two years older than most of us by the time he joined our third form class in 1958.  Robin was no academic enthusiast,  but he took part in athletics with gusto and represented the school in hurdles.  In sixth form, Robin reputedly became the first DHS pupil to drive to school in his own car every day, from the family home in Kloof.  His friends recall many exuberant escapades, crammed into that Morris Mini!

After school Robin did military training in the Natal Carbineers Regiment, and then joined the family business.  He married Grace Abbott in 1967, with his classmate Norman Dyer serving as best man.  Robin and Grace had two children, Barry and Debbie.  Robin won a bursary to study air conditioning and commercial refrigeration at the Carrier plant in Syracuse, USA,  and then moved to the Natal midlands where he took over the Pietermaritzburg branch of the family business.  There he became very active in community and church affairs.

The Stranack family was devoted to outdoor sports of many kinds --  swimming, camping, surfboarding, hiking, biking, and, as seen here, windsurfing....

...and fishing:

Robin spent many close and happy times fishing and golfing with his son Barry.  The photo below was taken at a golfing tournament when Barry was 19 years old:


Sadly, Barry developed a rare form of cancer, and died in 1996 at the age of 24.  Robin and the family were devastated by this loss.  In memory of his son, Robin promoted an annual Barry Stranack Memorial Golf Day at the beautiful Boeshok Golf Club in the Natal Midlands.  This event raised funds for cancer research for more than two decades before the covid epidemic made it impossible to convene.

By 2011 Robin was ready to leave to South Africa and join his daughter, who was now living in the UK. Here he is with a gathering of old DHS friends in that final year in South Africa --   Norman Dyer,  Barry Purdham, and David Douglas.

In 2012 Robin and Grace settled near London, close to where his daughter Debbie lived with her husband and their two daughters.  Once again Robin fished and played golf; and again he became active in the life of the local community and its church.

However Robin began to show signs of cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer's disease.  At first the progression was slow, and for a while Grace was able to care for him.  The photo below was taken in Devon in 2018, during the last family vacation together:

But by late 2020 the disease had accelerated so far that Robin had to be admitted to a home to be cared for.  He passed away in Kent on 19 July 2021.   

Robin Stranack lived a full and active life, surrounded by family and doing the things he enjoyed.  He is survived by Grace, his wife of 53 years, his son-in-law Gaston, his daughter Debbie, and his grandchildren  Mika and Lucia


[Special thanks to Norman Dyer, David Douglas, and Robin's family for supplying information and photos]



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31/07/21 06:26 AM #1    

Anthony Crosby

Thank you so much Ian for that wonderful snapshot of our dear friend Robbie Stranack.  I received a text from Flabs Dyer on Friday 23rd informing me of the sad passing of one of lifes gentelman. 

You have sais it all and i am not goung to attempt to add anything to your caring words to remind us all of our great friend.   

Unfortunatly its a very long time since I last saw or comminucated with Rob An  honest and very stark reminder of the importance of staying in touch. 

Rob was always a popular and welcome visitor at our home 278 Chelmsford Road.  Both my parents thought he was so polite and always had a smile and a glint in his eye. 

I will share just a few funny memmories all the same.  We lived at the very end ( University end) of Chelmsford road at the`top of one of Durbans` steepes hills.  One very hot Durban afternoon We all rushed out, jumped into his Mini ( Probably on the way to Addington Hospital nurses home where Grace and many others were in residence)  Rob released the hand brake and rushed down Chelmsford road but as we neared the bottom and he went to turn the ignition on he realised that the`keys were still on the dinning room table. Needless to say he had to trudge back up the hill in the Durban heat to retrieve the car keys.


Another Rob story  was when  had just secured a big deal for the family business at a major bank in Pinetown. Rob shook hands with the manager and walked out into the main street, unfortunatkly straight through their  crystal clean plate glass window. 

I remember when Rob first met the love of his life Grace. Grace was the head Radiologist at Addington Hospital. Her Xray skills used in her profesional life saw straight into Robbie's heart. There was such a strong loving union formed right there and then 

Rob we will all miss you but thank goodness the memmoried are there forever. 


RIP Rob Stranack. 

31/07/21 04:23 PM #2    

Ian Robertson

Robin's daughter Debbie has sent us this moving note about her father:

I remember a father who was so very present in our lives, who built us tree houses, zipwires,
swimming pools and sailing boats with his own hands; who took us hiking, camping, fishing,
golfing, windsurfing and waterskiing. A father who was into everything a small boy could wish for!
And for me as an adult, a father that joined me on biking, canoeing and swimming adventures and
selflessly crewed for me. A father who provided a safe haven for us, who was proud of us, loved
and supported us unconditionally. And a father who weathered the loss of a child with dignity and
unwavering faith.
We remember a beloved grandfather who could completely lose himself in his granddaughters’
fantasy worlds. They adored him, they were his whole universe and we were so lucky to have him
just down the road in the UK for so many years. He was the one who patiently taught my eldest to
walk. Unfortunately he also taught my husband to play golf…but I’ll forgive him for that.

31/07/21 05:50 PM #3    

Barry Purdham

So very sad to hear of the passing of our dear friend and class mate Robin Stranack.
Rob was a class mate of mine for many a year and have very fond memories of him as well as his dear wife Grace.
I last saw Rob in 2012 with Flabs Dyer and friends and later heard he had moved to the UK.
As Ant Crosby mentioned in his memories of Rob I recall Robs famous Mini which he came to school with. Fridays after lunch was the time Rob usually bunked school sometimes alone but mostly with some of his mates.
Rob never got caught - still can't believe it.
Rob was always very friendly and a loyal class mate and we will cherish fond memories of him.
To Grace and the family - thinking of you all and Rob has most certainly left an everlasting memory in all of our lives.
RIP Rod. Gone but not forgotten.

01/08/21 04:52 AM #4    

John Thompson

One of the really "good okes " is gone. I was very sad to read of the terrible disease he contracted which has to be one of the worst for the sufferer, family and friends.

I too, have memories of the Mini - Living in Westville I used to catch the Intertown bus to School until I decided to spend the money for the quarterly season ticket and hitch to school. Invariably Rob picked me up and he enjoyed the occasional treat from the tuckshop from me with the money I "saved" . 
RIP Rob until we meet again.

02/08/21 04:43 PM #5    

David Douglas

As John Thompson said, we have lost “one of the good okes” Yes indeed.  

For me, it has been a great privilege to have been a close friend of Rob’s both at DHS and in our adult lives, none so more than in the past couple of decades.

He and Grace had a long and very happy life together. As his Alzheimers progressed, it was especially hard on her and the stage was reached when she could no longer cope and had to have Rob admitted into special care. 

The loss of their beloved son Barry at such a young age was devasting to them both.   Like his father, Barry was a very popular young man, as is attested by his many friends launching the Barry Stranack Memorial Golf Day. This was held at Boshhoek each year continuously for 20 years, until the pandemic intervened, but by then having raised a substantial sum towards cancer research. Rob and Grace were very proud hosts of the event, which they attended even after they had emigrated to the UK. 

Rob will be remembered fondly by Class of 61 schoolmates as being a mischievous, carefree and fun loving guy. Yet there was also serious side to him which came through in his adult life. He and Grace were very popular in the Hilton area and once they settled in Kent. They actively participated in their communities. They were very keen members of their church and Rob chaired the PTA of two of the schools attended by Barry and daughter Debbie.  

After I returned to KZN from Gauteng in the early 2000’s, Rob and I shared an untold number of golf rounds in the Midlands, none too serious and plenty of banter.  Judy and I saw a great deal of Rob and Grace and greatly enjoyed trips away together to join Norman and Lissa Dyer at their cottage up the Kromme River and in the Waterberg.

Their move to West Malling, Kent in 2012 was to be closer to Debbie, Gaston and their two granddaughters whom Rob doted upon. Through Skype and Whatsapp we were able to keep in close contact with them and we visited them there.

His illness progressed rapidly in the last 6 months and yet it came as a shock to receive the news from Grace that Rob had passed away. At our age, each one of us knows how hard it is losing special mates of so many years standing and with whom so many really great memories have been built.

Many stories abound of Rob and his Mini. One I remember was of trips to the drive-in. I can’t recall how many of us managed to cram into that Mini, but the little car must have been close to dragging on the ground. Rob would stop out of sight of the entrance, we would extricate ourselves from the car and Rob drove in alone. After we hopped over the fence and bought the popcorn we joined him on the inside.  

RIP Rob Stranack. You were a very special guy and will remain an indelible part of my memory bank and those of many others.     

04/08/21 10:03 AM #6    

Robert D'Aubrey

I was saddened to hear of Robs passing,it was a privilege to be a friend his, he was one of lifes gentlemen.I regrettably lost contact with Rob and Grace after they relocated to Hilton,however the comments posted say it all !!  My sincere condolences to Grace and family. RIP Rob.  Hamba Kahle Nkosana.

05/08/21 01:08 PM #7    

Ian Poole

Seeing that picture of Flabs, Barry Purdham,Rob and Baldy Douglas brought back so many memories! I too was a beneficiary of that Mini. Rob and I both had a girlfriend at Westville Girls High and whenever we felt we could get away with it we could get away with it wewould sneak out at big break and scream up the highway for a quick snog over the back fence of the school then scream back in to make sure we didn't get back late for the next class. It wasn't so much fun when one day Volvo travelling towards us veered off the road and rolled resulting in a fatality. As the first there we could not leave and needless to say we didnt make it back to school at all on that day. Great guy but like with with everyone else I didnt keep in touch in the years before Vera and I left for Oz.

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