Memorial Service for Champion of Environmental Education and Park Accessibility
Many folk in SANParks knew and have been touched by Rob Filmer. He and/or the organisation he co-founded – Eco-Access (www.eco-access.co.za
)- have held many camps in, and worked on many joint projects with SANParks. Many of our universally accessible facilities found inspiration in Rob’s advocacy on how the natural environment should be as accessible to everyone, regardless of a person’s physical, sensory or intellectual ability. Rob was a former game ranger with Mpumalanga Parks and spent time in the USA at the ICF (International Crane Foundation). One of his claims to fame was ringing the first Wattled Cranes in South Africa. But Rob had been a diabetic since childhood and in his 20s this caused him to lose his sight. But for a couple of years after losing his sight he continued to work in conservation, gravitating to environmental education. It was during this period that he met and married his wife Julie who would become his ‘twin’ and closest friend.
Rob’s condition was particularly severe and hours spent linked to a dialysis machine became a way of life thus limiting his ability to travel, or spend time away from medical care. Seventeen years ago doctors told him he had about 3 weeks to live, but he kept on going and kept bouncing back despite many health scares. His unconquerable spirit and constant smile in the face of constant adversity. He and Julie became major advocates for environmental education and integrating people with disabilities into society and in particular creating access into the natural environment to enable such marginalized groups to be able to experience the beauty of and healing spirit of nature. Their work saw them honoured by the United Nations, the South African Government and many conservation and disability organisations.
In 2009 Rob and his wife Julie received a Kudu Community Contribution to Conservation Award from SANParks for their near 2 decades of contribution to making the natural environment accessible to people with disabilities. Ironically Rob and Julie’s organisation presented SANParks with an award in 2003 for our contribution to creating an accessible natural environment for some of the universally accessible facilities we have made available in our parks.
Rob passed away on Wednesday 10th swiftly,peacefully and in the company of family at their home in Johannesburg. His last few weeks had seen him suffer a great deal of pain but his last moments were good and happy. The world is a poorer place for your absence Rob.
A memorial service celebrating Rob’s life at a service at Oakfield Farm on Thursday, 18 November from 11h00 (www.oakfield.co.za
) . The service will be followed by a bring and share picnic in the gardens. This is how Rob loved to celebrate and we are honoring that.
For those who may find the morning difficult, please feel free to join us later in the day in the gardens of Oakfield Farm.
Money in lieu of flowers: The Rob Filmer Memorial Trust. Details to follow.
Anyone wishing to contact Julie can reach her on:
(011) 477 firstname.lastname@example.org