Kimberley, South Africa


Geller (nee Malkenson), Sharon

Sharon Geller, late wife of Jeff Geller, born May 1949, died March 2014 aged 63

This tribute is taken from the Eulogy prepared by Barney Horwitz, Chairman of the Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation for her funeral in Johannesburg in March 2014 – and also includes Barney’s words in tribute to Sharon at the consecration of her tombstone in April 2015.) Both these events in Johannesburg had a strong Kimberley connection. They were led by Rev Matzner who had previously endeared himself to the community as minister in the 60s and 70s. Barney’s tribute was also read at a Memorial Service for Sharon in the Kimberley synagogue. 

Sharon Geller was born Sharon Malkenson in Johannesburg on14 May 1949. She attended Jeppe Girl’s High where in her matric year she was a prefect and then studied Dress Design both locally and in Israel – studies which led to a lifetime of great artistic clothing creations. Sharon met and married Jeff Geller in 1974 and moved to Kimberley where the Geller Family had a Historic Pub, ‘The Star of the West’ which they had run as a family for many years. 

The Geller family lived happily amongst the Kimberley Jewish Community for many years until the late 1990’s. Their two daughters – Sheree and Romy were born and grew up in Kimberley. Sharon was extremely active in the Union of Jewish Women and all spheres of Community Life and her daughters blossomed, had their Batmitzvahs in our Shul and went on to successful careers, marriages and lives in London and Johannesburg.

I was uniquely privileged to have spent many an evening in the Geller home both in Kimberley and in Johannesburg and to see how devoted to each other Jeff and Sharon were. Sharon was a woman of strength. Active, practical, business-like and the director of her household and family, involved in the welfare of all those around her. She had an electrifying giggle that carried for great distances and was the ultimate hostess. Someone once said “Joyfulness keeps the heart and face young. A good laugh makes better friends with ourselves and everybody around” and this was very true of Sharon.

Coming to Kimberley all those years ago in 1974, a place not known for art and fashion creation she lit a spark and used her enormous talent to help build the local fashion creation industry. All of us will indeed miss her greatly and our condolences go to her family Jeff, Sheree, Romy and families and to her friends whom she considered family as well. We wish them all a long life.

Barney Horwitz
Chairman – Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation, March 2014

Barney wrote again, at the consecration of Sharon Geller’s tombstone 26 April, 2015

Today, as Jeff Geller dedicates the Matzeivah over his late wife Sharon’s grave he is doing what Jewish husbands have been doing for over 4000 years and his love for his wife was no less than that of Yaakov for Rachel all those years ago. Anyone who was around to see him nurse and nurture her in the last two years of her life can bear witness to this.

Pictured here are Jeff Geller, Rev Matzner, Gary Allen and Joy Capon when June Haberfeld hosted a get together for Bobby and Delia Benn in Johannesburg in February 2016.

I met Sharon soon after she came to Kimberley and had the honour of knowing her for 40 years through her life there and beyond. Her two daughters, Shiri and Romy were born and educated in Kimberley and had their Batmitzvahs in our Shul. 

Sharon was extremely active in the Union of Jewish Women and all spheres of Community Life.  In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s we in Kimberley had between 40 to 80 Jewish National Sevicemen in base camp there at any given time and Sharon was the person who arranged for each and every one of them to be hosted by a Jewish family every Friday night – no mean achievement as there were only about 46 families in the community and often she would face abuse rather than welcome when she approached people in this regard.

Last night at dinner I sat next to one of these men who had never known Sharon but had done military service in Kimberley in the late 1970’s and who was totally unaware that he was sitting one chair away from her husband. He told me how thankful he was for those Friday nights in Kimberley and what a difference they had made to his life- this nearly 40 years after the event and without knowing how close he was to the one who had made it all possible!!!!

Sharon had an electrifying giggle that carried for great distances and brought levity to all around her, whatever the circumstances. She was always hospitable and a wonderful friend to many of our children who made the journey from Kimberley to Johannesburg to study, including my own daughter and for this we all thank her.

Standing here today and looking around we could be in Kimberley in the 1980’s. I see Capons, Cohens, Datnows, Frenches, Gellers, Horwitzes, Salkinders, Sterns and leading the service with such grace and compassion and beautiful words concerning Sharon, our very own Reb Matzner who toiled so hard in our little community for so many years. Reb, on behalf of the family and our community I thank you for always being there when our Kimberley diaspora calls on you.

And to Sharon, may your soul be bound in the eternal bond of life.

Barney Horwitz
Chairman – Griqualand West Hebrew Congregation, Kimberley, April 2015