29th May 1923 – 3rd February 2002
Desmond George Neville Crowe
Desmond was a very special family friend. We met Desmond and Mary about 15 years ago in Andorra. Desmond will never be forgotten by us – he was special, always there, willing to help – very generous in his friendship to Alan and me and to our family; but his generosity was not only to us as he had many friends in Andorra and all over the world. He told us that sometimes, when he could not sleep, he would be writing or calling up friends in different time-zones – keeping in touch.
Desmond was an active member of the C.I.A. – he enjoyed many dinner arranged by them and outings to places of interest. There were many members of the C.I.A. at the funeral, and he would have loved the beautiful flowers sent by the Club – and many others.
Desmond loved telling stories – true stories. He would say “stop me if you’ve heard this one”; often we had, but were happy to listen again – and sometimes again!
Desmond helped me recently when Alen broke his femur – given me lifts in the car and helping me with heavy shopping – which ultimately was the last thing he did for me, because next morning Mary called to say he had died – suddenly, in the night. One couldn’t believe it and we were very shocked. It is very hard to believe we shall never see him again. He was so active and helpful and involved himself in many things.
Desmond was born in London – his parents had travelled by boat from Greece, especially for the purpose of having the birth there. His father was third generation British to be born in Greece, and wished his son to be born British.
The family returned to Greece, to their lovely home near Athens where Desmond’s father was in shipping. When Desmond was 7 years old he was sent to Windlesham prep school near Worthing and from there he went to Stowe public school near Buckingham. (no, not the palace!).
He was a well traveled boy, travelling alone from an early age back to Greece for the holidays, usually by train.
In 1939 when the war broke out between Great Britain and Germany, Desmond received an urgent call from his parents to leave immediately for Paris where they would meet him and then place him in a Swiss school, Switzerland being a neutral country. In 1941 he was again summoned urgently to leave Switzerland and return to Greece as Germany was about to invade. At this time Mary was in Holland and in the same circumstances – about to invade by Germany – but they were not to know this about each other for many years.
The Crowe family had to leave their lovely home near Athens with nothing, but for some reason Desmond carried six rolled Persian rugs with him. He contacted the captain of his grandfather’s yacht, arranging to meet in Corinth; but he did not come, instead sending a message that he was taken his own family to safety! Eventually they found a ship which was going to Crete, but on the arrival at the port it could not go into the harbour, and – as they saw the bombs falling – the captain decided to make it for Egypt but here the Crowes were not allowed in to Port Said as they didn’t have enough money. So grandfather was contacted and he sent money and finally they were allowed in, but maybe they had to pay “baksheesh” . After some time they boarded another ship to South Africa, and luckily this time there were no bombs.
Desmond wanted to join the South African Air Force as a pilot but since he was underage his mother would have to sign her permission, but she would not give her permission for her son to become a pilot – she did not want her only son to be killed. Desmond’s father was also in the SAAF, in censorship.
After the war Desmond went to Cape Town University where he studied Electrical Engineering and obtained a degree. He was employed English Electric in Johannesburg and then they sent him to the U.K. as an apprentice for two years, then he was sent back to the same company but in Southern Rhodesia. It was there that he met Mary… and so began a big romance!
Mary had previously arrived from Holland, and eventually they married in Salisbury. They had a very happy life for many years, making safaris and camping in the bush, adventures with wild animals, and by then son Peter became very fond of the outdoor life, animals and plants. But – trouble was brewing: it was the “Ian Smith Era – 1966”. He declared independence and there was a bush war. Desmond was preparing to leave because Peter was liable to be called upon into the Rhodesian Army – so once more packed their bags and took a ship to the Bahamas and, – on the way – by radio heard that the Bahamas had become independent! However, they were allowed in, and made their home there for four years.
Peter brought with him seeds, or maybe cuttings from jacaranda, thorn tree (acacia) and flame trees which he planted – they grew, and someone now must be wondering how the South African trees got there!
The Climate was very humid, and Desmond wanted to find a dryer climate; he found the mountains in Andorra in 1970. He stayed a month and made preparations for Mary to arrive, then here the stayed.
The funeral was held at La Massana Parish Church on February 6th at 11am on a very cold day when it was snowing hard. The church was full, with some people having to stand. The service was conducted by Father Mossen Jaume and the Reverend John Melin. The choir was in attendance, the music being played by Barbara Melin. Gisela Pereira sang solo “Ave Maria” by C.Gound: her beautiful soprano voice filled the church.
The eulogies were spoken by Daniel van Duyne – the grandson, Johan van der Wal and Hanny Weller Boldesheij – Dutch friends of Desmond and Mary. They became very upset at this point, and could hardly continue.
The casket bore the family wreath – pale yellow and white flowers with deep green fronds – it was very beautiful, as were the flowers at the cemetery. Desmond loved flowers and he would have appreciated them very much.
After the funeral some close friends and family from U.K., Holland and Dubai were invited to Hotel Aldosa where a light lunch was served. This was an opportunity to meet the family again.
KWAHERI Desmond – a wonderful, special family friend, sadly missed, never to be forgotten, we loved you.
We continue our support and friendship to Mary at this sad time.
Bernie Cruikshank April 2002
Published in the Inter-Comm June 2002