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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist

‘Cheers for now, Derek’ – Friends and family pay tribute to Derek Watts at memorial service

Attended by giants in the journalism fraternity, Derrick Watts’ life was celebrated at an intimate memorial service on Thursday morning.

It is not strange for people to say nice things about the deceased at their memorial service, but it’s not often that you find what’s said is being universally agreed upon by all.

This was the sense one got at the memorial service of seasoned broadcaster Derek Watts.

The 74-year-old renowned Carte Blanche presenter, who succumbed to cancer last week, was fittingly celebrated at an emotional memorial service on Thursday morning.

“What has come out of my dad’s passing is the essence of how loved the man truly is. I’ve always known he was appreciated and admired by many, but the fact that the nation has been grieving his death alongside our family, is an acclimation to the man he truly was,” said Watts’ daughter, Kirsty.

About a decade ago Kirsty underwent six months of chemotherapy and 33 days of radiation after a tumour was found on her brain. She does a lot of work in helping less fortunate kids fight cancer after beating it herself.

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The father

“Not only was he overloaded by dad jokes, but he always remained so young at heart and had a wonderful jovial spirit,” said Kirsty. Watts’ daughter was the only member of the family to stand and speak on the podium, while her mother Belinda and brother Tyrone opted to celebrate him through tributes.

Belinda asked for Lauren Jones’ Compare to You to be played as a montage of their photos together played,while Tyrone had Prime Circles’ Ross Learmonth perform The Scientist.

“Our beloved father and husband filled our lives with a light that can never be extinguished. His presence was a constant source of strength, kindness, and unwavering support,” a message from the family read.

“As a family, we are deeply moved by the outpouring of love and support that we have received during this time. Your presence here today is a testament to the profound impact that he had on all of us.”

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The journalist

Watts’ sincerity to his job was evident throughout his career, especially on Carte Blanche where he affectionately grew on people’s fabric each Sunday evening.

“Even in television, notoriously superficial at times, he was never anything more or anything less than Derek, and people loved him for that,” said the show’s producer John Webb.

Webb’s speech was brief and light-hearted, with the veteran journalist joking about Watts’ height, especially when he met Queen Elizabeth.  “Among his many attributes, Derek was one thing above all else, so very very tall,” said Webb.

“Surely that’s a reason he once got a smile and a few words from Queen Elizabeth in London. I’ve often wondered about that moment, of how things looked from the Queen’s point of view,” said Webb providing comic relief to the room.

“Derek was my television dad,” said broadcast journalist Devi Sankaree-Govender in a video message.

“I was so star-struck when I met big D. it was at an editorial meeting and he made me feel like an equal, right off the bat.”

“I’m not there because the show has to go on right. I’m busy chasing crooks and I’m gonna give them hell because legends like Derek, Ruda [Landman] and Manu Padayachee led the way,” said Sankaree-Govender.

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The friend

“I know full well, if there’s anybody I’ve ever met, who even in a situation such as this, would’ve found a reason to smile and a reason to laugh, it would most certainly be Derek. I suspect that the only thing he’s probably annoyed at right now, is that he can’t be here with all of his friends,” said Dan Nicholl.

“He always had the best advice to give,” said a teary-eyed close friend, Paul Kelly.

“He would listen so intently, but he would look right at you. He would hear you and understand you.  Kelly confessed that in all the years they played Squash together, he never could beat the TV presenter because of his wing-span.

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