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22 October 1944 – 19 June 2021

A Life Worth Living

By David Gluckman

Derek Smorenburg was my predecessor as Chairman of the Sanlam Umbrella Fund Board of Trustees serving as such from 1 July 2007 until his retirement on 29 February 2020 (more on this date later).

My final meeting with him took place earlier this month as he continued to serve on the Fund’s Remuneration Committee. He was keeping “exceptionally well” as always, and informed me that he had recently had his first jab of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and was looking forward to his second jab scheduled for 14 July. We made a date to meet for coffee after Bastille Day.

Derek was always such a positive person. An inspiration! He certainly knew how to enjoy the finer things in life. He appreciated simple beauties.

But he also had a sense of purpose. He truly served our Fund members and the wider financial services industry in general. Perhaps this attitude was rooted in his humble beginnings and limited academic education? Even well into his 70s, he continued to regularly dream of new “world firsts” that could improve the lives of ordinary South Africans.

His 2011 CV in Enjoyment offers a lot more detail on a very interesting life and one filled with meaning. It is typical Derek and well worth a read.

His record in the industry and as Chairman of the Sanlam Umbrella Fund speaks for itself. Here I prefer to focus on Derek the personality.

Not only did Derek choose to retire on 29 February, but he also chose to be married on that special day. Linda was his wife, partner and best friend for 29 years, and they remained so clearly in love right until the end. That date is no coincidence – one attribute Derek had no shortage of was style.

Some years back, I visited a shopping mall in Newlands. I noticed a bright brand-new BMW in the parking basement wrapped in a shiny red ribbon. The thought occurred to me that can only be a present from Derek to Linda. I was correct!

So, it seems appropriate to leave the final words describing Derek to Linda: “Determined, resilient, romantic, positive, easily bored, Loved his Champagne…  It so happened that he was at lunch when he died. He put down his glass of champagne and quietly departed without a word.

Farewell my friend and colleague. I will never forget you.