‘Maggie was always there for us’

People filled Century City Conference Centre to bid Maggie Rowley a final farewell at her celebration of life ceremony.

About 200 people gathered at the Century City Conference Centre on Thursday January 17 to celebrate the life of Maggie Rowley.

A renowned journalist and sought-after marketing manager, Ms Rowley died in the early hours of New Year’s Day after battling cancer.

She leaves behind her daughter, Georgia Rowley, life partner Wendy Hartshorne, siblings, nieces and nephews.

The celebration included good food and wine. A slide show ran against a wall, showing pictures of Ms Rowley, and a minute of silence was replaced by a toast and applause that resonated throughout the large hall.

“It’s what she wanted,” said Ms Hartshorne, who called her partner a remarkable woman and one of the fortunate few who had loved her work.

“It’s what made her tick,” said Ms Hartshorne.

“What a privilege to have been part of her life and her gift to me was to be part of her family,” she said.

Ms Rowley’s colleague, Andrea Bowen, described her as “bigger than life”.

Born in Durban, Ms Rowley obtained her BA degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and pursued a career in journalism that stretched over 40 years.

Her work covering the school boycotts during apartheid and exposing the injustices faced by rape victims and battered women made Ms Rowley a force to be reckoned with in the media industry.

For the past 15 years, she managed the communications and marketing of the Century City development.

“If we included everyone’s lives whom Maggie touched we could’ve filled the Cape Town Stadium. Maggie was that special,” said Leon Cohen from the Rabie Property Group.

He described her involvement in the development of the new Sinenjongo High School in Joe Slovo as the pinnacle of her career. In 2006, Sinenjongo had been run from prefab buildings with just 44 matrics — 12 of whom passed.

“Maggie was instrumental in overcoming challenges in the project with charisma and passion,” said Mr Cohen, adding that he had been left in awe of her tireless work to make the school a success.

Last year, the school had 161 matrics, the highest in its history. It scored an 85.7% pass rate with 70 matric exemptions. To honour her hard work, Rabie Property has started the Maggie Rowley Bursary for deserving pupils.

Sinenjongo principal Khuleswa Nopote described Ms Rowley as a giant of a woman whom she was glad to have known.

“She’s made a huge impact in the lives of disadvantaged children. She has ensured that the majority of these kids are in different institutions through the financial support she was negotiating time and again with Rabie Property,” said Ms Nopote.

The media centre at Sinenjongo High had been renamed the Maggie Media Centre in honour of Ms Rowley, she said.

She invited ex-pupils of the school who have studied further to join her on stage to pay homage to Ms Rowley.

Sinombongo Macekiswayo matriculated in 2013 and is in her final year of medicine at UCT.

“Maggie was more than just a mentor. She was more like a mother,” she said.

“She was always there for us whenever we needed her. We were so blessed as Sinenjongo High School to have known Maggie and to have worked with her. I stand here feeling proud and blessed to have known her. We are inspired by her to become better people and to become charitable” said Ms Macekiswayo.

Mr Cohen added: “There is a huge sense of gratitude for all that Maggie contributed to the world in her lifetime. Maggie was a legend and heaven has gained an exceptional angel.”