Cricket South Africa (CSA) has heard with great sadness of the passing of Ewie Cronje in Bloemfontein today at the age of 80. He had been in deteriorating health for some time.
Born in the hamlet of Bethulie in the south-eastern Free State, Nicolaas Everhardus Cronje became one of the great characters and driving forces of Free State cricket. Known to all simply as Oom Ewie, he represented Free State for a decade from 1960 to 1972 at a time when Free State cricket was not particularly strong, and can be truly regarded as one of the men who led the province into becoming a powerhouse that enabled them to compete against the best and score a memorable triumph over Western Province at Newlands in 1989 to earn them their first major trophy, the limited overs night series.
After his playing days he served Free State cricket in virtually every capacity including being convener of selectors, groundsman and President at which time he represented Free State on the Board of the South African Cricket Union. After unity he was a member of the inaugural Board of the United Cricket Board of South Africa.
He worked as an administrator at Free State University after he moved on from being a teacher at his beloved Alma Mater, Grey College, and had a lot to do with the growth of the university on the sports fields of South Africa.
“We have not just lost one of the game’s great administrators and a player of note,” commented CSA Acting Chief Executive Dr. Jacques Faul, “but a wonderful human being. He was a great man and servant of the game.
“People around the country will cherish very special memories of him and on behalf of the CSA Family I extend our deepest condolences to his family, his friends, his cricket colleagues and all the people who were touched by his humility, kindness and comradeship. He was Mr. Free State cricket.”
He was honoured with the Khaya Majola Lifetime Award for service to cricket in 2012.
President of Free State Cricket Union Zola Thamae commented: "We have learned with shock of the passing of our cricket stalwart, Oom Ewie, who has given a lifetime of service to cricket. Oom Ewie will be sadly missed by the cricket fraternity. He was a person of integrity who wanted to give fair opportunities to everyone involved in cricket regardless of their background. I remember that he lobbied me in particular to come and start girls cricket way back in 1995 when we were both serving in the Free State Provincial (National Sport Council) NSC in 1994", Zola said.
"On behalf of the Free State Cricket Board, we send our condolences to his family and the cricket family. May his soul rest in peace.".
"It is with sadness that we have learned of the passing of Oom Ewie Cronje, who is the former president of Free State Cricket Union," commented Chief Executive of Free State Cricket Joahn van Heerden. "We would like to send our condolences to San-Marie, Hester and Frans on their loss. We know these are difficult times, we wish you strength and we thank you very much for allowing Ewie to be part of our lives and of the cricket family."
"Oom Ewie is a great loss for South African sports and for Free State Cricket. He was passionate about cricket and one could always rely on his advice," added Vice-president of Free State Xander Snyders. "He always remembered players by the names and stats. His sports stories will always remain with us. Free State Cricket prayers are with the family and friends. May Oom Rest in Peace", concluded Snyders.
He is survived by his wife, San-Marie, his elder son, Frans, daughter Hester and their extended families and grandchildren. His younger son, Hansie, captain of the Proteas from 1994 to 2000, predeceased him.