Louis Venter passed away in Cape Town approximately 2 weeks ago at age 85 and the Western Province and South African hockey community mourns the death of one of its most loved hockey characters.

My first impression of Louis was him umpiring a premier league hockey game in Johannesburg in 1970.  Whilst his physical stature may not have been as imposing as Granville (Granny) Rolfe, he managed the game with total control. 

Louis had overcome polio in his twenties and surprised doctors by taking on many physical challenges.  He ensured misdemeanors were handled with a quiet warning word or a little dash of humour engendering the respect of players and fellow umpires.  This epitomized Louis and why he was universally respected as a national umpire.  He umpired at SA’s inter-provincial tournament and SA Country Districts from 1964 until the late 70s, after which he became a national umpires selector and in the late 70s had also assumed the mantle of Chairman of Western Province Hockey and a Council Member of the SA Hockey Association.

He had managed provincial teams, coached club teams including the University of Cape Town’s brilliant champion team of the early 70s which produced the likes of Ian Richter and Don Welham, both of whom had celebrated stints in the green and gold.

Louis was also the Technical Delegate (TD) at numerous inter-provincial tournaments not only ensuring that the tournaments ran like clockwork but also helping to nurture a generation of great SA umpires such as Dan Thysse.  He certainly was a major figure in creating the solid base that has made SA Hockey a leader in producing world class umpires.  He probably allowed himself a small chuckle of satisfaction when people asked how a medium sized hockey nation, for so long in the hockey wilderness, punched well above its weight when it came to producing umpires of the highest calibre.

His involvement as Chairman of WP Hockey and as SA Council Member at a very delicate time required diplomacy and skilled administration as he and other hockey stalwarts such as Dave Metter, Froggy Miot and John Marquard piloted the hockey boat through the very choppy waters of the despised apartheid era.

In the late 70s Louis’ wonderful wife, Lorraine, became Secretary of WP Hockey (probably a first in SA Men’s Hockey) and the husband and wife combination together with other superb administrators ensured WP hockey administration was at the forefront and the envy of other provinces. Tournaments such as the IPT at Milnerton and many more were a joy to attend.  Prior to the advent of artificial surfaces, he had identified the importance of indoor hockey in developing skills; as a development tool and a game of sheer fun and he ensured that the hosting of tournaments in Cape Town often included European Teams, a precursor to this common practice nowadays.  He also edited and produced SA Hockey’s first magazine entitled “Whistle Happy” and it brings back myriad memories to page through one of the back numbers of the magazine – nowadays a hockey collector’s item.  This means of communication and constructive criticism extrapolated into the digital age would be a revelation!

He shared many hours of fun,friendship and humour with another great hockey stalwart, Vic de Mink, and these two epitomized the camaraderie of hockey.

When we measure the impact a person has made it is often seen in the love and respect with which his peers hold him.

Whether it be fellow umpires and selectors such as Bobby Gagel and Graham Loudon-Carter, fellow administrators such as Don Perry, journalists such as Iain Cameron-Strange, players such as Ian Richter and Don Welham, we all have wonderful memories and anecdotes of Louis – a warm, generous, kind, loyal and courageous person and friend.

He was acknowledged formally by SA Hockey when he became an Honorary Life Vice-President of SA Hockey-fitting acknowledgement for his herculean efforts.  A very successful businessman, he loved and cherished his family and his beloved wife, Lorraine and son, Raoul were the light of his life.  Our thoughts are with them in these sad days.

The Western Province and South African hockey community were very fortunate that this man who overcame adversity, loved his parallel unpaid career in hockey, second only to his family.

That’s why our hockey scene is so much the richer and why all who had spent quality time with him felt he had enriched their lives.