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Heart to Heart with Denise Essom

NOVEMBER’S HEART TO HEART WITH: Denise Essom (née McClelland) (CLASS OF 1962)

Denise started as a boarder at St John’s D.S.G. in Grade 8 in 1958 with her twin sisters, Sue and Jane, starting a year later. Forty three years later, her daughter, Katie-Lee, walked through the very same gates to begin her senior school career at St John’s D.S.G. Katie-Lee, now Katie-Lee Wisdom (Class of 2005), was a proud recipient of the Old Girls’ Bursary.

Earlier this year, Denise approached the school to let us know that she would be working on a couple of paintings of various iconic parts of the school and donating a portion of the profits of the prints sold to the Old Girls’ Association Bursary fund. We wanted to find out more about her story, and so we decided to catch up with her…

Whose choice was it for you (and your sisters) to come to St John’s D.S.G.?

We have my father to thank for that one. My sisters and I grew up on a farm in the Underberg area and St John’s D.S.G. had been a consistently popular girls’ school of choice for that area for literally generations. Our dad made the sacrifice for us to spend five super years as borders there.

What did you enjoy most about your time at school?

My favourite experience from attending St John’s D.S.G. was the fact that our class was small, so a good camaraderie was established between us all and has since stood the test of time, creating life-long friendships.

Why do you want to give back to the school through the sales of your paintings?

My life, and especially that of my daughter, has been hugely enriched by the education and the invaluable ethos that the school enabled us to be a part of. I have had many years of experience as a graphic designer, so I recognised an opportunity to step up and pay-it-forward.

What did it mean to you that you daughter attended the same school as yourself?

It was a proud day for me when I arrived in the carpark with my daughter for her first day of school, the day she officially became the next St John’s D.S.G. girl in our family.

Denise is selling her stunning prints for R375 for one or R750 for both. For more information or to order prints, please email Delivery options are available for those outside of Pietermaritzburg and South Africa. A reminder that a portion of all prints sold will be donated by Denise to the Old Girls’ Association to assist future recipients of the Old Girls’ Bursary.

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