Forget me not…

Dougie Snyders, better known as Uncle Dougie, is pictured in his happy space - arranging flowers for St Marks Church in District Six, a job he did voluntarily for 60 years before he died a few weeks ago.

The yellow and white chrysanthemums which were enjoyed by the congregation of St Mark’s Church in District Six for nearly 60 years will be missed almost as much as the man who was responsible for ensuring they were there for each service.

Dougie Snyders, who was laid to rest at the church on Saturday March 17, had been a dedicated church member and arranged the flowers for services every Saturday without fail.

Every Saturday, Uncle Dougie – as he was fondly known – would take a taxi or train from his Mitchell’s Plain home to the city centre, stop at the flower sellers at Trafalgar Place to buy flowers, and walk up to the District Six church on the CPUT campus, where he would arrange flowers and make new bouquets for the next day’s service.

He succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of 84 and died peacefully at his Westridge home.

Claude Arries said he met Uncle Dougie more than 30 years ago at St Mark’s Church in District Six.

“He used to live in Lentegeur, but when he left home and had nowhere to go, my late wife and I decided to take him in to our home in Westridge.

“He didn’t really associate with his family. It is only since he fell ill and passed away that I learnt of his brothers and sister.”

Mr Arries said Uncle Dougie had been a member of St Mark’s Church since he first went to the church.

“He was very dedicated – he spent more time at the church than he did at home. He used to leave home at 6.30am every Saturday morning – be it the train or taxi that he took to the city centre – and returned after 1pm.”

And because Uncle Dougie was a quiet man who kept to himself, there was very little that Mr Arries knew about his past.

“He worked in the printing business in the city centre for years. Before he went to work, he would take my children, and the children of the neighbourhood to school and then leave for work.

“He was also a Sunday school teacher at St Mark’s for a very long time.”

He said Uncle Dougie had battled with his health for a long time, but was only diagnosed with cancer a month ago.

Mr Arries said: “He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. They kept him at the hospital for a few days and then sent him home because there was nothing they could do.”

Mr Arries said Uncle Dougie was loved at the church and was very fond of children.

Mildred Jutsen, a church warden at St Mark’s, said when she became a congregant of the church 22 years ago, Uncle Dougie was already the flower arranger.

“He was very passionate about what he did and about ministry. He stayed in Mitchell’s Plain, and every Saturday he would take a taxi to town, and stop by the flower sellers.

“He was very specific about the flowers he wanted and he knew exactly where to get them, and so the flower sellers also came to know him.

“From there, he would walk up to the church – and it was not a short distance for a man his age – and he would come and rearrange the flowers and tidy them up and took great pride in the end result.”

She said Uncle Dougie had been a man of many talents. “It wasn’t only flowers Uncle Dougie was passionate about. A member of the church told me she had a picture of Uncle Dougie all dressed up with her mom as they danced ballroom.”

She said he never missed a Saturday or Sunday at church.

“He was also very proud – he never asked for a lift. He always wanted to walk.

“And when we have special occasions at the church, he would go all out. Once we had a flower festival, and we were amazed at the arrangements he could do.”

While most of the flower sellers at Trafalgar Place were shocked when the CapeTowner informed them of the death of “die ou mannetjie wat elke Saterdag blomme kom koep vir die kerk”, Glenda Bowman said she had been informed by one of the congregants.

She said Uncle Dougie had bought flowers from her for more than 20 years.

“Last year, he told me he was going to retire, but he still went on for a few months.

“He loved yellow and white flowers and there were times he also bought
St Joseph lilies.

“He was old, but would always offer the seat to the ladies. Sometimes when I had extra flowers, I would give them to him.”

She said she never got to see his work because he didn’t have a phone to take pictures of them with, but he always brought others to her who wanted flowers.

“He did bouquets for friends too. He didn’t charge them – it was a pleasure to do it for them.”

She said when he came on a Saturday morning, he would rest a bit and they always had a long chat about his trip there.

“I always had patience with him and I listened to him. I’d say we developed a friendship. It wasn’t only about the business.

“I will miss him. He was a very gentle soul and always spoke softly and kindly.”

Before he met Glenda, he bought flowers from Cecelia Williams.

“I know him for more than 30 years and then I fell ill for a while and he then started buying from Glenda.”

She said he would come around the corner, smile at her and then stop to rest.

He had told her he wasn’t feeling well. “I told him I’ll pray for him and that he must be careful.

“He was a very nice man. He always spoke sweetly and then when he left with his flowers he would tell me ‘see you next week’.”

She said he had loved chrysanthemums, particularly the yellow and white ones.

Delia Williams, Cecelia’s niece, said she’d seen Uncle Dougie around since she was a teen.

“He used to be here very early – sometimes at 6am – and he would sit and chat to my aunt. He was a humble man and always had a smile on his face.

“He never ever asked for a free bunch of flowers.”