Elderly couple die five days apart from Covid

Abdurahman and Gaironesia Isaacs.

District Six has said farewell to an elderly couple who died within days of each other from Covid-19.

Abdurahman Isaacs, 87, died on Friday January 15, and his wife, Gaironesia, 85, died on Wednesday January 20. The Isaacses celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last October.

Their daughter, Zenette Koen, said the family was unsure how they might have caught the virus.

“Both my mom and dad experienced mild flu-like symptoms early in January, and my mum was a cardiac patient and my dad was diabetic.

“They deteriorated quite quickly, and within a week both were diagnosed with pneumonia related to Covid-19.”

The Isaacses were born in District Six. After marrying, they lived opposite Chapel Street Primary School, later moving to Basket Lane and then to Dorset Street.

Along with many other families, they were forced out of the area in the 1960s under the apartheid Group Areas Act and ended up in Elfindale in 1969.

The couple had five children, Ms Koen, 64, Ulpha Robertson, 63, Ferial Isaacs, 62, and twin brothers Saleh Isaacs and Sharmil Isaacs, 59, as well as 10 grandchildren.

Mr Isaacs worked for a clothing company in Sir Lowry Road, District Six, and later became the managing director of Popular Styles. Ms Isaacs owned a wool-and-crafts shop, Thimblecraft, that provided high schools with needlework supplies.

Like many families who longed to return to District Six, they lodged a land claim in 1995 with the District Six Trust led by the late Anwar Nagia, and their dream of returning home was realised in 2012 when they moved into a flat in Rutger Street.

Ms Isaacs went on to found the District Six Charity Knitting Group in 2015. Its chairperson, Fairuz Basserdien, said the group had taken root on Ms Isaacs’s 80th birthday. “Her children wanted to give her a party, and she said no, they must rather give her the money so that she can start this knitting group.”

The group knitted handmade blankets, bed socks for old-age home residents, scarves and caps for a children’s home and blankets and beanies for premature babies at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Ms Basserdien said she and the other women in the knitting group wanted to continue Ms Isaacs’s legacy. “She played a big part personally in my life. She was my rock and would always inspire me when I felt down, and many ladies from the group could confide in her.”

Two years ago, due to Mr Isaacs’s deteriorating health, the couple moved to their daughter Ms Robertson’s home in Newlands. Their granddaughter, Iman Isaacs, is staying at their home in District Six.

Ms Koen said one of her fondest memories of her parents was when they celebrated their wedding anniversary last year. “Another fond memory was after the Sunday lunches when the grandchildren could stage a play for the enjoyment and amusement of the adults,” she said.

Both their janaazahs were held at their daughter’s home in Newlands and they were buried in the Mowbray Muslim Cemetery.

Abdurahman and Gaironesia Isaacs in 1983.