Val Boje was a true South African patriot
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Our nation's capital has lost a towering figure in the world of journalism with the tragic and untimely passing of Val Boje.
For over 40 years, Val worked at the Pretoria News in a host of capacities, which culminated in her editorship of the paper. She was highly regarded by her peers, the diplomatic corps, our elected representatives and the people who make up the tapestry of this great country.
Just over a year ago, Val was elected as the chairperson of the National Press Club, and in that capacity she hosted a number of high-profile events on Zoom during the lockdown. She brought professionalism and finesse to that role, and was always finding creative ways to bring the world of media to the people.
I worked closely with her over the past seven years and came to learn that a person can exude simplicity, but also great intellect; passion, as well as compassion; loyalty and dedication; and, above all, an incredible work ethic. Val had all of those attributes and more.
She had a great affinity for Pretoria, it's social fabric, political dynamics, diplomatic vibe, enthusiastic learners and its politicians. She was a veteran journalist, who was a walking encyclopedia of facts and history about our nation's capital, who had been on the ground reporting throughout the most exciting period in our nation's history.
What I admired the most about her was her genuine commitment to social justice, and her ability to use the media as a means to fight for peoples' rights and expose injustices when they occurred. She was never politically factional, and her only agenda was to report the truth as she saw it.
Val loved life and would embrace it fully. She got most excited when there was a trip to take to a far off unknown corner of the globe, and would relish discovering new cultures, and especially places few tourists were exposed to. She was held in high esteem by foreign diplomats in South Africa and was never short of invitations to visit their countries.
We attended numerous diplomatic lunches together, and there was seldom a National Day where you couldn't catch a glimpse of Val within the crowd. One ambassador once remarked that she had become an institution in Pretoria.
But for all the professional accolades, she was very much a family person, deeply connected with her roots. She was immensely proud of her two grown-up children, Christine and John, and on coffee breaks I would often hear of their escapades. She was deeply inspired by her husband Roy, who had once been the news editor at the Pretoria News, and who must have been a constant source of story ideas. She was very close to her parents, John and Elizabeth Boje, and she would often tell me about how her Dad had been a senior teacher at St Alban's in Pretoria. It was just last week, as she lay in hospital, that she told me the school would be naming a building after her father later this month.
Val knew that at the end of the day all we have are our families, and her deep loyalty to hers means there will now be a gaping hole in their lives. But to the members of the Boje and the Devenish families, we want you to know what a great inspiration Val was, not only to the media fraternity, but to our society. She was a wonderful storyteller and will be sorely missed. But our lives are richer for having had her in them.
Rest in peace, dear friend and colleague.