True to form

When I met Merryl Jubber, she was not yet 23. She and I both attended JRA Toastmasters on a Thursday night and since we were both in our 20s, we would go to a late night restaurant after the meetings and drink the kinds of sweet alcohol that only people in their early 20s can enjoy. She was elected President of JRA, and that year, the club performed extremely well. This was before the DCP was invented so we don’t know exactly how well. But it would have been President’s Distinguished, no doubt about it. Merryl, even at that age, knew that leadership means putting people first.

We lost touch after a while, but I next saw her at a Club Officer training. I bummed a cigarette from her and we caught up on old times. I asked what she was doing, and she said she was training the presidents. I reminded her of her past successes and asked her how she did it. She told me that at the beginning of the term, she met with each committee member for coffee and asked what their motivations and goals were for their role. And then she tried to give them an opportunity to reach those goals through their club officer role. It’s such a simple idea and so powerful, that I’ve used it ever since. I told her then she was the best person to train the presidents.

In 2012 we added new divisions to the District. But we needed a Division Director for Division L. I approached Merryl, who turned me down flat. There was no way, she said. She was busy. She didn’t even live in Johannesburg any more. Of course, that was fine by me. Toastmasters is supposed to be a joy, not an obligation. But she called me back and said, since I had asked, she would accept. And so she did. She ran a brand new division in a city she no longer lived in and she ran a President’s Distinguished Division. She showed us how much can be done remotely, even before the days of Zoom and fibre internet. So I was delighted when she ran for Cabinet. She was elected by a thin margin under difficult circumstances. But true to Merryl form, she accepted her mandate and drove her portfolio with the professionalism and energy we had come to know her for.

She was elected District Director, and it was her turn to call on me. Would I serve on her newly conceived Ethics Committee? Merryl asked. So I accepted.

In March this year, she ran an on-line Open House which was so successful, that I’ve heard International Board members talk about emulating it across the world. That is only 8 weeks ago.

The District will miss Merryl’s vision and leadership. Her son will miss his mom. I will miss my friend. Heaven will be a much more inspirational place if Merryl has anything to do with it. RIP.

Erich Viedge, DTM

Past District 74 Governor 2011/2012