Edgar Vercuiel, the man who sold peanuts for the squirrels in the Company’s Garden for almost a decade, died last week.
Mr Vercuiel was better known for his rhyme which could be heard throughout the Garden: “Peeaaaaanuts – peeanuts for the squirrels”.
He also slept in the Gardens, as he was homeless.
Last Thursday, tributes poured in as other homeless people gathered at the entrance of the garden for the usual feeding programme with Discover Your Power support group, run by Venetia Orgil.
Everyone lit a candle in memory of Mr Vercuiel.
Ms Orgil, said he was like a son to her.
“He dubbed me the angel of the gardens, but now I know that he was and always will be the Angel of the Gardens.”
She said Mr Vercuiel had a bigger calling than what he realised. “He was protector of the homeless. He was the one person I could ask for help when someone was new on the streets. He would show them the ropes and put them under his wing.
“I’m going to miss him opening my car door like a real gentleman, cupping my face with his hands, kissing me on the cheek or putting his arm around me.
“There is so much fond memories but he was the person who looked out for me all the time.”
She said she realised at the gathering that so many of the homeless people will miss Mr Vercuiel too.
His best friend, Carin Rhoode, told the CapeTowner she had met him 12 years ago at the Haven Shelter in Napier Street.
“I used to work at the Men’s Clinic in the Golden Acre at the time, and I saw Edgar when I went home. His first words he said to me were..’oh, jy is die dame wat die manne reg maak.’ We’ve been friends ever since.”
She said a memory she has of her time with Mr Vercuiel at the shelter was one day when they were in the kitchen, the chef had just turned her back when they threw a lot of meat pieces in the pot. “When she caught us, Edgar said he didn’t know the meat wasn’t meant for the pot. Everyone at the shelter ate ‘lekker’ that evening.”
Thereafter they both found jobs and moved to other shelters, but kept in touch via Facebook. “I then heard that Edgar was in hospital and when I got there, he said he had a problem with his liver. But as sick as he was, Edgar was the male nurse of the ward. He helped everyone there.”
Ms Rhoode said she then moved back to the city centre when she got a job in Long Street, ad received word that Mr Vercuiel was around.
“He ran away from hospital because he wanted to be with his family on the streets.”
She said Mr Vercuiel looked after her on the streets, and taught her how to survive. “He taught me to pick up beads on Greenmarket Square and encouraged me to make bracelets and earrings, and sold them for me when we had nothing.
“He was my guardian and my soulmate. Even when we argued, he would ask if I’m okay and look out for me.”
Ms Rhoode said Mr Vercuiel loved people, and especially loved the squirrels. “He sold peanuts, but would give half to the squirrels. He once nursed a sick baby squirrel back to health.”
Chuma Somdaka, a street artist in the Company’s Garden, said when she first got to the homeless shelter seven years ago, Mr Vercuiel welcomed her with open arms.
“That’s how I remembered him. He was a very kind and gentle soul, despite what the streets had turned him into.”
She said he also made it easier for her to be herself. “Edgar was queer, and I am queer, so he showed me that it was okay. I could be myself around him.”
Estelle Woodman of Woman of Hope, who fed the homeless people every week and lives in the city centre, said Mr Vercuiel was very close to her heart.
“I had a chat with him everyday. He will be missed by many, and was known by many, selling peanuts to everyone, even the tourists.
“At 10pm when we went out on the feeding scheme, he would take me around the gardens to the darkest corners to feed the senior people who he knew of who didn’t get a meal.”
She said she used to see the homeless people of the gardens every night and they became her babies.
“Edgar was my baby, he will be missed for his good human nature. He was homeless, but he took care of the homeless. On behalf of Women of Hope, he will be truly missed,” said Ms Woodman.
A memorial service was held for Mr Vercuiel yesterday.