Mary Agnes Stuart Shearar (nee Menmuir)

I first met my wife by accident when we were working at the Heerengracht, Cape Town, branch of Barclays Bank DCO as it was then.  That was in 1966 if memory serves me correctly. She stuck her leg out as I was passing her desk and I quite naturally tripped and fell. Kind of a different take on dropping a handkerchief! Anyways I wasn’t injured except for my pride. I quite literally fell for her, one thing led to another, we started dating and fell in love.

I did the traditional thing and asked her father for his permission to marry his only daughter. His response was quite unusual “Do you really know what you are getting yourself into?” I replied “No but I am more than willing to give it a go”. So be it he replied.

So we officially announced our engagement on the 16 December 1967. That anniversary funnily enough was always more important to Mary than our actual wedding day . Maybe it was the fact that we were then committed to a  definite course of action. We got married the following year on 4 May in the Strand magistrates court, by the magistrate in the actual court room. We joked afterwards that it was a life sentence we both got. So the reception followed and when I tried to start my car to go the hotel and start our honeymoon, it refused to start. We spent about two hours trying to work out what was wrong, stripping the carburetor to find that something had “blown” in there. We ended up borrowing a car as the hotel was only about 20 kilometers away in Gordons Bay.

By the next morning Mary’s brother, Scarth, had done temporary repairs (which lasted the next 4 years when we sold the car!) and we were well and truly on our way to our first of call, my home town of Umtata in the Transkei.  This was 1600 Km in one go.  After showing Mary around for a couple of days and visiting family and friends, we went on to our final destination – Umngazi River Bungalows on the Transkei Wild Coast.

As a child our family had spent many happy holidays there and had (still have) very fond memories of that wonderful place.

Being on the Transkei Wild Coast there was a abundance of sea food, amongst which was crayfish. That being on the menu on our first night there I ordered Lobster Thermidor served whole on the plate. Mary took one look at it, screamed and ran out of the dining room. She refused to return until I had finished and the remains removed.

We visited Umngazi several times over the years and that incident was still a talking point among the employees and regulars! She never lived it down. It was not the last time I had the dish but I always insisted that it NOT be served in its shell with feelers and all. A satisfactory compromise for both of us.

As you probably know oysters are supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Well, I had made friends with a couple of keen fisherman, and being one myself, we went out fishing in the estuary one night, all night. As it happened I had had a couple of dozen oysters for dinner that night. From then on I never lived it down and Mary did not let me forget it – ever!

Time moved on and we had our first child together (Mary already had a son Emile by a previous marriage) whom we named Mark born on 16 September 1969. I was present at his birth and still remember bursting into tears as he was born. Shortly afterwards we moved into our first house and were extremely happy there. I still sometimes regret having sold it.  Mary woke up on morning, (Mark was about 18 months old) feeling extremely weak and looking white as a sheet. I immediately called the ambulance and it transpired that she had an ectopic pregnancy and that one of her fallopian tubes had ruptured causing extensive loss of blood. Our religious beliefs precluded any blood transfusions so the operation went ahead using Ringers Lactate solution which is a plasma volume expander. Doctors and staff were amazed at her quick recovery.  I had the opportunity to talk to the ambulance paramedics later who said they fully expected her to die!

We both had pretty strong religious convictions at that time so when we learned that there was a need for people to help spread the word in the little town of Kokstad in East Griqualand we sold  our house and furniture, bought a big caravan and moved there. I of course had to leave my employment with Barclays Bank and supported my family by making kitchen units, built in cupboards and the like. Although we were kind of  happy there, the move was not entirely successful as Mary was really missing her parents and friends. Coincidentally she fell pregnant again so this precipitated our move back to Cape Town. Frank Bruce Shearar was born on 19 March 1975 at the Mowbray Maternity Hospital by caesarean section.

Our next and last son John Charles Shearar was born on 5 November 1981 and so had a really rowdy welcome into this world. Actually so did I having been born on 7 December 1941 also known as Pearl Harbour Day.

So all of our sons  went to the same junior school but three different high schools . All three have all ended up following the same basic career path, namely different variations of information technology. Having three children certainly had its advantages as each one could be given individual attention according to their age. What we learned very quickly is that their is no one single approach to parenting and discipline. 

Mary loved doing many things, apart from bearing the brunt of rearing our children. I often regret the time I spent trying to  build a career but missing so much time with them. She loved patchwork, quilting , embroidery and knitting. I still have jerseys that she knitted for me 20  odd years ago as well as a quilt that I still use when watching TV on a chilly evening. Gardening became quite a passion of hers in later years – she had really green fingers.

Once she discovered the internet and had her own computer, she discovered a whole new range of interests. One of her most absorbing was genealogical research into her family tree (Menmuir, Gericke and Buchanan) and mine. There was no stopping her once she got going on this, scores of emails every day from around the world. Indeed through this she discovered a cousin whom she had last seen at the age of five! They were reunited about 7 years ago when Joan and Jose visited Cape Town.

Mary was apparently a bit of a tomboy as young girl and used to spend her Saturday afternoons immersed in the innards of whatever her brother’s car was at the time. As she became  older this kind of morphed into reading “handyman” magazines and “when are you going to make this for me” or “I need a kitchen makeover” or telling me what exactly what was wrong with our car. And she was invariably right!

As a lot of women do, she liked watching soapies but unlike many other women she also really loved Formula 1 racing. At the time when Ferrari and Michael Schumacher were the top dogs, her excitement came in picking out who would be the first to drop out. She had about a 75% success rate in this!

She also enjoyed watching rugby (proper rugby which is of course Rugby Union) and especially the Haka performed by the All Blacks prior to  all of their test matches. Tennis was another favourite, particularly Wimbledon.

Our marriage had its ups and downs, especially in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. I was heavily involved in a new career, spent wayyyyy  to much time at work and we kind of drew apart. The first  time we hit a really serious problem was when I had business which entailed me frequently staying away from home for fairly extended periods. Not that it is any excuse but I was feeling lonely and down and ended up with having a relationship with a woman while I was away. This got serious to the extent that I wanted a divorce. To Mary’s eternal credit she fought to get me back and she won, for which I am eternally grateful. So we reconciled and the next near disaster happened a few years after that.

These are Mary’s notes starting from around May 2004:

“After the flu 2days I went to bed early and felt a sore spot on my breast the other one was soft. Went to Dr Inglis the next day who sent me for a mammogram.
The mammogram showed nothing the same as last year the radiologist Dr Omardien said ,So I said well what is this sore spot and the sore gland.
He said right we’ll scan and he put the machine on the sore spot and said “Oh I see what you mean.”
Because DR Inglis gave me a letter for Dr Ann Gudgeon I could only get an appointment on the 26th May 2004. On the 21st Dr Inglis phoned and said Dr Omardien wanted to know what had happened to me. I said I am waiting for Dr Gudgeon No she said Brings the xrays and come this morning. She checked the letter and immediately phoned Dr Hugo Allison who said he was operating all day and that he would see me at 4.30pm.
We went and he did a needle biopsy which he said would burn a little but boy oh boy it felt like a horse had kicked me, and I thought Oh Oh this is not right.
He had it checked by a pathologist and we were told 2 hours later that it was malignant cancer of the breast.
On Monday 24th Dr Allison said he knew at once when he put the needle in that here was trouble and I said I knew too.
Had to go on 26th for Nuclear medicine Isothop which was 4 injections into the breast . Dr Klopper was in theatre and Dr Cohen who assisted.
The operation took place at Vincent Palotti on the 27th May 2004, they took out a 10mm cubed lump and 12 nodules(lymph glands), 7 glands were infected.
By 10th June the scars are healed and Dr Allison said I was doing very well as I could move my arm and put it in the air.
15th June went to see Dr David Eedes in Wynberg
The Story goes I have a bone scan [Results clear] a heart scan [fine]  and a liver ultra sound [fine]
Then on to Dr Ann Gudgeon who will decide on which Chemo to give me which can take 3-6months and then radiation and a tablet for 5 years.
My op and after care should have taken from 2-4 days and mine took 8 days as someone or a faulty vacumn bottle was put on for almost 24 hours and then a new one was put on and that was very sore indeed . I could sit up even put my feet on the floor but not put my weight on them when I would freeze in pain and my room neighbour would have to ring for the sister and they put me back in bed so that it could settle down, One sister made a bra for me until Chris brought one in and then it was better to move. Then it was just a matter of waiting for the pain to stop.
Chemo was 6 times once a month you no sooner felt better when the next was due.
Then an x-ray to determine how and where to focus the radiation. had 36 treatments one a day for  6 weeks off for saturday and sunday. Wasn’t bad just like having a tan powdered my self with maizena as you couldn’t get the place wet.No bo smell.
Then after a while it started to peel as you took your bra off it would be full of skin like fish scales. The skin underneath beautifully soft.
Went for 6 monthly checkups for 8 years till all clear.Took Aremidex cancer tablets daily for 6 years
Now its 8 years gone and still clear.”

We had a small cottage at Hermanus Yacht Club on the banks of the Klein River lagoon and spent many happy and relaxing weekends there over the next 10 years. Many many memories 🙂

In October 2014 we had made plans to go on holiday to Beacon Isle, Plettenberg Bay to arrive on Friday 17 Oct 2018. Fate cruelly intervened on Monday 14 when she woke up feeling extremely ill and weak. I accompanied her in the ambulance to Vincent Pallotti hospital.

Some 5 hours later she died from heart failure arising from a  dissecting aortic aneurysm. I have nothing but praise for the efforts of specialists and other medical personnel to save her.

Our whole family were devastated to say the least but with the help of family and friends we survived. After 47 years of marriage I was desolate on my own.

She still lives on in our hearts.

RIP Mary.

Gallery

 

 

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