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Memories of Mixael
in-loving-memory It is with great sadness, we report the unexpected passing of Mixael de Kock on August 25th. He was well known and a doyen within our profession. We will miss his often controversial views and conversations which challenged many.

Mixael’s Memorial Service will be held on 22 September 2013 at 11:00 at his home. The number of guests is restricted to 40. Please RSVP by sms to Judy de Kock on 082 807 4304 before the 20th.
Mixael de Kock

Memories of Mixael - By Madhuri Dass


I met Mixael de Kock in January 2011. He invited me to his lovely Greenside home, and I was immediately smitten. He talked affably as he poured me my tea. It was a silver tea service, and I noted the piano, the gilded mirrors and the candelabras.

“If you drank decent tea – with milk – I would be pouring the milk out first, then the tea,” he said. He was right of course. I remembered my grandmother used to say that it prevented the china from getting crazed. Then he said it, just as I thought it.

We pottered from one topic to the other – and I counted off the similarities between us. Like me, he learnt how to play the piano, but didn’t keep it up; he made a living in the field of communication; he had an intense pride about his family and heritage; he studied psychology, and he loved particle physics.

What amazed me was how a man, in his late fifties, who grew up in South Africa, could have so much in common with me, a thirty-something woman from India – surely our backgrounds were very different? After a few meetings, I discovered that Mixael had a knack for putting just about anyone at ease. Plus he could chat his head off.

Back in Pretoria, I talked about Mixael incessantly with my friends. Solomon, having gone through almost a whole bucket of chicken wings, suddenly tuned back into the conversation and said, “Are we still talking about him?” We all laughed, because this time, I’d been at it for twenty minutes straight. And, I couldn’t wipe the grin from my face.

I Googled Mixael before our next meeting, and was horrified to learn of a brutal crime in which the perpetrators had left him for dead. He was no victim, though. “I feel grateful it happened,” he said simply. “I can hardly see, but my other senses compensate for it. Now, I ‘see’ the world in a whole new way.” He had a bad back, too, and he kept up a rigid exercise regimen. In fact, he had a million medical procedures to endure. Complain he did, but there was no bitterness.

Mixael co-hosted a press event to raise awareness about malnourished children for the charity I worked with. He was upset because we hadn’t invited a celebrity, and the programme was “bound to long and boring.” Mixael never minced words. I wondered if he would stomp out of the show in a huff. On the day, he said to me, “There’s nothing sexy about it, but supporting this cause is absolutely the right thing to do.”

Mixael always spoke animatedly of the string of arty and social projects he was involved with – guide dogs, health check ups for children, you name it. He didn’t think it was enough that I worked with a charity and was always ready with some snarky comment about what I was doing personally to help the poor.

In fact, that’s exactly what I loved so much about Mixael. The fact that he was witty and fiery and opinionated and high maintenance! This picture was taken one day when he took me to lunch to his favourite restaurant. He kept shooing away the pigeons from under my seat, even though he couldn’t see them. I know that Mixael is up there with the stars, now. The shiniest one is him.

Letter of tribute - By Merle O'Brien

I am writing in my capacity as PRISA Fellow to express my sincere condolences on the sudden passing of Michael de Kock, former PRISA President who served immediately after my term of office in 2006/07.

The sudden passing of Michael is a huge loss for the global PR industry not only South Africa because of the consistent contribution he made as an educator, strategist and thoughtleader in PRISA, at the PR Global Alliance and international academia.

Michael raised the bar in his quest for brutal best in everything he did. He had a fine appreciation for high art and a refined sense of aesthetics in beauty, fashion and food. He was also a master of the art of being controversial.

I was blessed to be conferred a PRISA Fellow by Michael and he wrote a few words on my LinkedIn profile a few years ago saying.

I have known Merle O'Brien for more than a decade now - both of us having been colleagues and serving the profession through its professional body, the Public Relations and Communication Management Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA). I have always found Merle to be a soft-spoken but determined individual ensuring that justice is done within the framework of fairness. The highest compliment I could have paid Merle is when I conferred upon her, during the Institute's Golden Jubilee Year, a Fellowship - the highest award that the President can make to a colleague for selfless service to the profession. In Merle's citation, her involvement in the transformation of the industry, particularly, was mentioned.

I know that he enjoyed a close working relationship with Margi, Pat, Bridget and Susan - and he will be sorely missed by them. Please extend my condolences to all. RIP Michael.

Letter of tribute - François Baird

Mixael de Kock was always tripping the light fantastic on the edge of where society would be going next. With unmatchable panache. And he was as tough as hell. He was a paradox whose contradictions set an example of wholeness.

I have known him since 1984, first as my boss, then as my colleague when he was the Managing Director of Baird’s and always as a loyal and trusted friend. Mixael was like that; friends and colleagues were the same thing if they shared his values. He valued life – living it on his own terms and at full speed.

Unashamedly gay, he was the straightest shooter in town and no holy cows survived his honest, withering tongue. Mixael could live such an integrated life because he knew himself, could analyse people and dissect the ills of society with the cold steel of a his intellect, and yet retain his humanity.

He was a well-travelled, educated man of refinement and sophisticated taste, yet as much at home with captains of industry, intellectuals and artists as he was with miners and labourers. And he adored his dogs.

Rising through the ranks to become PR chief at Gold Fields of South Africa, then as MD at Baird’s before founding the Maverick Group, Mixael achieved lofty heights in his profession, while serving a great number of good causes – about some of which we knew and many where he simply contributed without fanfare. He brought his unique brand of leadership to a large number of professional and cultural organisations. His leadership as President of PRISA marked a turnaround in the fortunes of our professional body, because he stimulated robust debate, even if it discombobulated many.

While his body is dead, the paradox of Mixael the man lives on. His legacy to us and to his many causes is his example; of genuine friendship, simple honesty, and of an unmatched flair for living freely and giving generously according to his own lights.

Rest in Peace is not for Mixael: let it rip up there my friend, and redecorate the big house!

You are welcome to share your thoughts and memories of Michael or the impact he made on your life with us. Please leave your tribute here.


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