Jo leaves an unforgettable mark

Jo McIntyre inspired many.

The education world has lost a stalwart in the passing of Josephine McIntyre, who was born on October 5, 1930 and passed away on April 2.

She left an indelible imprint on Rustenburg Girls’ High School, as a teacher, head of English and in later years as the principal from 1980 to 1991.

Jo, as she was fondly known, was the mother of three daughters and a son. She is fondly remembered and will be missed by family, friends and former colleagues.

In her retirement she moved to Peers Village in Fish Hoek and was an active member of St Margret’s Anglican Church.

While retired, she wrote the history of Rustenburg’s first 100 years, in the book White Stoep on the Highway.

This was a major task, involving much detailed research and careful writing, and the result is a valuable contribution to recorded history. For some years after she retired, Ms McIntyre also edited the magazine of the Old Girls’ union.

Her grandson Robin Goode had the following to say: “Jo was born in Brighton in 1930, the day the Graf Zeppelin crashed on its maiden flight. She was christened Josephine after her father’s younger brother, Joseph.

“Jo was a force. A truly unique character whose fire burnt brightly in those striking blue eyes. She had a constant mischievous look about her, incisive, calculating with a wicked sense of humour. A great conversationist and astute intellectual, you could talk to her on just about any subject under the sun. Who would have thought she had so much to say about nanotechnology? A forthright character who didn’t mince her words or suffer fools. Few people have the guts to say what they feel – I’ve learned so much from her in this regard.”

He added that Jo was a giver, not in obvious ways but intellectually.

“This was her gift to the many people that were taught by her or talked to her. She spurred you on to greater things. She did everything 100% and would always push for perfection in everything she did and inspired you to do the same. She got you thinking and was fascinated in the creative process as a vehicle to getting there,” he said.

At Rustenburg her organisational skills, sense of civic duty and desire to teach all came together into one role.

He said that when Jo was in her 20s she used to give free night classes in an old chapel on the Cape Flats, giving up her evenings to help her students learn to read and write.

Even in her 80s Jo was giving free English literature classes on Saturdays, to students from Ocean View.

He said nothing made her happier than talking about projects, art, drama, books, films, anything, as long as you were originating and making it.

“Just two days before her death she was sitting up in bed giving me advice on my scripts. She had the uncanny ability to find the essence. Little truths, simple concepts that always cut a clear path to the heart of a story. She was very good at finding the gold.”

He said Jo’s last 20 years were defined by her great friendships, which she treasured. Her friends have all been so supportive with their love and time when things got harder, to the family’s gratitude.

Mary van Blerk, who succeeded her as principal from 1991 to 1999, said: “Ms McIntyre will always remain a very important part of Rustenburg’s history. Not only was she a distinguished headmistress for nearly 12 years, but before that she was a fine head of English, having first started at Rustenburg in 1970.

“Then, when I took over from her on her retirement in 1991, she gave me enormous assistance in getting to know Rustenburg and its traditions. I was very grateful for this, and was always glad when she visited the school during my time as headmistress.

“She showed great interest but did not interfere or criticise, although sometimes she must have felt there were matters she would have handled differently.

“Just about a month ago our new principal, Michael Gates, and I visited her in her home in Peers Village, and she was so glad to have the opportunity of meeting him and relating to the new era of the school. Josephine McIntyre influenced the life of Rustenburg and the lives of very many people. We shall miss her enormously.

“So it was, both in her expectations of the girls and in her own life. Ms McIntyre was always elegant, articulate, dignified and steadfast in her leadership of the school. By her example, she provided the girls with a model of how femininity and professionalism could integrate successfully without losing the capacity for kindness and compassion.

“By any standards, Jo McIntyre was an exceptional headmistress, and an exceptional person. Her contribution to Rustenburg Girls’ High School was invaluable and for that, many generations of Rustenburg Old Girls will be ever grateful.”

Judith Gordon, then Judith Stewart-Watson, worked closely with her in the English department.

She said that the English department staff each had a turn to comment on the school’s interplay performances, and Ms McIntyre always insisted that the first comment made was a positive one. She said: “There must be something good to say about even the worst presentation; find it and say it.”

Ms Gordon said this showed how she taught her staff to act wisely, in this instance by prefacing criticism with a good or encouraging point.

“She ran the school with dedication; for instance when the need arose for her to intervene in the boarding house she moved in there with her husband, Bob. Mr McIntyre played his part at Rustenburg too, assisting in many ways, as during this time there was much new building and development.”

Marian Lennox, the deputy head at the time, said: “Ms McIntyre set high standards. She knew her focus for the school, and had the necessary leadership qualities. She understood the girls and was easy to talk to. Despite her self-confident demeanour and air of authority, she had a very human side and the girls could relate to her. The school flourished under her leadership.”

Dr Elizabeth Fullard, principal from 1999 to 2006, commented: “Ms McIntyre was a highly principled person of great integrity.

“A fine headmistress, she combined her leadership qualities with good sense and hard work, setting high standards for herself and others.

“When I followed her at Rustenburg I was very grateful for the assistance she gave me in getting to know the school, its traditions and its needs.”

Laura Bekker, principal from 2007 to 2015, observed: “Ms McIntyre was a stately lady who maintained a strong presence both in appearance and voice. I appreciated Ms McIntyre’s words of wisdom and encouragement during my tenure at Rustenburg and send my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.”

Mr Gates, current principal, added: “Part of Rustenburg’s history has been lost. Strangely, the tree that her husband Bob planted in the matric quad died in the same week. Rest in peace Ms McIntyre, you will be sorely missed by all.”