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Charles M. Cronje

Died: February 20, 2015,
Pikeville, Kentucky

Willem Cronje remembers:

Charles was born in 1944 in Graaff-Reinet, the second son of Frans and Marguerite Cronje. He, his older brother Willem (1942), and his younger brothers Francois (1949) and Pierre (1951) grew up with their parents in Pretoria. He and Willem attended Waterkloof House Preparatory School ( Ruddles). Because of his precocious intellect, he skipped grade two, and joined Willem in standard one. In 1956 the two elder brothers entered Pretoria Boys High where they matriculated in 1960.

Both brothers entered Yale University, Willem in 1961 and Charles a year later. Both studied economics. Charles read voraciously throughout his years at Yale and completed his degree, although he did not attend many classes! Back in Johannesburg he joined the merchant bankers UAL. However, Charles refused to accept the conventions of society. After less than a year, he left UAL to follow a girl to Australia. Thus started a lifetime as a wanderer. It was the late 1960s and flower-children were wearing kaftans, strumming guitars, and experimenting with LSD. This became his world.

On his mother’s death in 1970, Charles returned to South Africa, but he was always restless and became bored quickly. He worked in Rhodesia as a farm manager at the time of the bush war and taught windsurfing in Plettenberg Bay. Many a business and professional leader of today recalls learning to windsurf with Charles!

In the 1980s Charles moved back to Johannesburg and became a landlord, operating two blocks of flats in Yeoville. He was eventually foreclosed by the bank as his hippie tenants did not pay rent. Being penniless, a state which he described to Willem as “perfect freedom,” he moved to a shack near Sedgefield, which he named Antarctic View. It was on the edge of a steep cliff, with a forever view over the sea. As always, he lived frugally. He was never one for physical comforts.

In 1999 he suffered a disabling stroke;, but, after months of intensive therapy, recovered enough to stay semi-independently in the George area. However, he was hemiplegic and never regained the ability to speak. As he grew older, his condition deteriorated; and he was moved to Bergville frail care in George. His brothers Willem and Pierre visited him shortly before his death.

He was a man of colossal talent. Only he would know whether he found what he was looking for.

Frank Schoeman remembers:
Charlie, as I knew him, came to Yale after his brother Willem won the Yale South Africa Scholarship the year before me. He was a bit of a wild card, but extremely likable. Because of this connection we became friends during our freshman year, but then drifted apart because he was in Berkley, I in TD, and we didn’t share classes or sports. As Willem wrote me after I offered my condolences:

“Thanks Frank — Charles had been incapacitated by a stroke for many years. We buried him on the family farm where we have been living since 2007.” Oh — for anglophones — the W in Willem is pronounced as a V: Cronje = “Kronyee”

William Hazard remembers:
Having roomed with Charles our freshman year, I can attest to his being one of the most intelligent and charming people you could ever meet. Both he and his brother Willem were perfect gentlemen, with all of the social graces of the times. Willem’s memorial note summarizes what I knew of his life well, and is a gem. Charles definitely heard a different drummer than most, but he was always a gentle and loving person who knew what he wanted even if he had difficulties finding it. Probably brilliant and entertaining until his stroke, he is missed by those who knew him.