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Many pay tribute to ‘Wessie’

SOMERSET WEST – The Helderberg community and its police officers are mourning the loss of an exemplary policeman who died while battling the coronavirus.

Warrant Officer Deon van der Westhuizen, who dedicated more than three decades to the police service, died last Tuesday (7 July) after contracting Covid-19 and being admitted to the intensive care unit of a local private hospital.

Somerset West police will pay their last respects to the fallen hero and beloved colleague with an intimate gathering at the police station on the corner of Pastorie and Main Road today (Thursday).

A memorial service, by invitation only, will be held at the Suider-Strand Dutch Reformed church on Friday.

According to Somerset West police station commander Colonel Jacolise Fleischmann all members were informed of Van der Westhuizen’s death on Wednesday (8 July). She said he had served the police and community with dedication, commitment and passion for 31 years.

The devoted policeman dedicated to the mission of making a difference was awarded a medal for 30 years of loyal service on 19 January 2017.

Van der Westhuizen joined the Somerset West police on 18 July 1989 and was appointed as sector commander for the Sir Lowry’s Pass satellite station on 1 August 2013 until 29 December 2016. He then returned to Somerset West to the Visible Policing Unit.

Fleischmann further said police will treasure fond memories of a spiritual Van der Westhuizen who liked to joke around, got along with everyone and was loved by colleagues and community members alike.

“He was dedicated, committed and hardworking,” she said. “He would never say no and took on every task to the best of his ability.”

The commander further shared that while Van der Westhuizen served the entire Helderberg community, he played an active role in Sir Lowry’s Pass with his involvement in establishing a successful neighbourhood and farm watch in the area. “Many community events were organised under his leadership and he took pride in the numerous police students who received their training from him.”

Van der Westhuizen was also a qualified field training officer and completed his moderator course on 30 November 2007.

“We would like to let his family know their loss is ours and we pray God will grant them grace at this difficult time. As his police family, we feel their hurt and stand together at this testing time.”

Van der Westhuizen’s wife Louise, in a telephonic interview, told DistrictMail both her husband and herself were admitted to hospital on Sunday 21 and Monday 22 June. Her admittance followed testing positive for the coronavirus twice.

The bereaved spouse said she first tested positive on undergoing an eye procedure and not showing any symptoms in April. This was followed by a second time last month, when both were not feeling well.

After a week-long hospital stay Louise recovered and was discharged on Friday. Her husband, however, was admitted to ICU on Sunday morning and placed on a ventilator that evening. He also suffered from asthma and apparently sustained secondary infections, which completely took over.

Louise said her husband’s condition was critical but stable on Tuesday morning, but took a turn for the worse that evening.

“I received a phone call at 20:00 to inform me that my husband was dying. My children and I rushed to the hospital and, clothed in protective gear, we said our goodbyes at his bedside and set him free, telling him that he has been called up for higher duty and if he had to leave, he should. We returned home at 23:00 and received the dreaded call at 23:43.

“He was an incredible husband and father, and a humble and deeply spiritual man whose door was always open to everyone – and his colleagues can testify to this.”

Fleischmann, on enquiry, confirmed no other Somerset West police members had been lost during the pandemic.

The Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch, in a Facebook post last Thursday, paid tribute to Van der Westhuizen and police reservist Hans Tolman, who died earlier this week, saying the former was one of the first police members active on the watch radio network back in 2008, and he will be remembered for his lively chatter when called on for assistance.

“Somerset West police have lost two precious members over the past few days. We mourn them and extend our heartfelt condolences to their families.”

About Van der Westhuizen the post stated: “Warrant Officer Wessie was never without a smile on his face and always made a difference wherever he was found. He assisted our patrollers with the fingerprinting officialities, as well as attending weekly meetings we had in the early days to relay the police information.”

According to friend Wallace du Plessis, Van der Westhuizen was an avid hobbyist computer fundi and will be sorely missed as a warm, big bear of a man, passionate about policing.

Aside from wife Louise, he is survived by his two children, Conrad (22) and Emma (17).

Messages of condolences shared on Facebook include from the Somerset West Community Policing Forum. Its post said: “Wessie was a policeman who, for many years, worked hard with and for the community. He was very much respected by all who knew him and we feel his loss deeply. Our condolences to his family and colleagues – we have lost a bright star.”

Said George Kruger: “Warrant Deon van der Westhuizen, you were a colleague to many but a friend to all. I salute you, we all salute you for the person you were. You were a great inspiration to us and your office door was always open for us if we needed help, guidance, advice or just to talk. We pray that the Father in heaven comfort and guide your family, colleagues and friends through this sad and difficult time. Rest in peace.”

Said Niel de Beer: “Deon van der Westhuizen, tonight you are with our Heavenly Father and it will be another lifetime to find another human to fill your place. You are and will always be a friend, an older brother, a true dad and husband, and a huge mind. A policeman’s dream, a community leader. RIP Deon.”

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