Merle Barros was one of those few Bonteheuwel residents still prepared to open their doors to someone in need, say those who knew her.
She grew up in Bonteheuwel, the eldest daughter of 11 children, after she and her family were forcibly removed from their Sea Point home during the apartheid.
Her brother, Andre Barros, says she could make anyone laugh, and she was a people’s person who could light up any crowd. She always gave food and luxuries to the children in the area and they always looked forward to seeing her.
Ms Barros was known for assisting community projects, including feeding schemes and Christmas-present drives for underprivileged children. Although born disabled and unable to walk, this never stopped her from helping others, and people knew they could knock on her door at any time for food or advice, says her brother.
“She always had a strong view that respect goes a long way, especially to move forward in life. She felt that way, even though she stayed in Bonteheuwel with gangs almost on every corner. She believed in treating each person with respect. She was kind-hearted and always gave her best and her last to anyone who needed it.”
Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus McKenzie says Ms Barros’s zest for life, her passion for the community and the love she showed to others will be missed.
“She was an absolutely wonderful person, a stalwart for her community. She had so much vibrance and passion to better things for Bonteheuwel, and she will be sorely missed by everyone especially those in Bonteheuwel Avenue.”
Mr Barros says the family is unsure of his sister’s cause of death, but she went to the doctor after taking ill on Monday March 15. The following day she was admitted to Heideveld day hospital where she died.
Her close friend, Abie Clayton, says she was well-known for her humble spirit and giving nature. Even though she couldn’t walk, she never wanted to be seen as disabled, he says.
“She always had a smile, always made people laugh and always felt that she had to feed anyone who visited her. We will miss going to her gate and having a chat when she stood outside, and her giving ways and loving spirit.”