All EOS blogs All Spain blogs  Start your own blog Start your own blog 

Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Death - There’s a lot of it about
Wednesday, May 31, 2023 @ 6:16 AM

The Covid-19 pandemic claimed many additional lives, but other passings have come out of the blue and moved us deeply. Communities have rallied round with moral support for those left behind.

Famous people, celebrities, are not immune either.

In 2023 alone we have already lost Burt Bacharach, songwriter (94); Jeff Beck, rock guitarist with “The Yardbirds” (78); Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons (93); Paul Cattermole, “S Club 7” (46); David Crosby, musician with “The Byrds” and “Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young” (81); Antonio Gala, Spanish playwright, novelist and poet (92); Len Goodman, dancer and “Strictly” head judge (78); Hugh Hudson, film director, “Chariots of Fire” (86); Barry Humphries, “Dame Edna Everage”, Australian comedian, actor, author and satirist (89); Steve Mackey, “Pulp” bassist (56); Mystic Meg, astrologer (80); John Motson, legendary BBC football commentator (77); Paul O'Grady, aka Lily Savage, comedian (67); Lisa Marie Presley, singer and only daughter of Elvis Presley (54); Paco Rabanne, fashion designer and perfumier (88); Gary Rossington, guitarist of “Lynyrd Skynyrd” (71);  Jerry Springer, reality TV host (79); “Topol”, actor, “Fiddler on the Roof” (87); Tina Turner, rock singer (83); Gianluca Vialli, former Italy, Juventus and Chelsea striker (58); and Raquel Welch, Hollywood actress (82).


Someone said that there were only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes. Even so, the number of premature and sudden deaths has been surprisingly high.


More than a decade of people dying too young.

Pablo de Ronda recalls the deaths of family, friends, and neighbours in the 15 years he has lived in the Serrania de Ronda. They are listed in chronological order.


November 2009 - Bill La Peche, Montejaque

We’d had dinner together the night before, Bill, his wife Jill, Rita and I. What a shock it was to be roused in the early hours to find that Bill had passed away in his sleep. Despite valiant efforts by former nurse Rita to revive Bill, it was too late. The paramedics, who arrived shortly afterwards with their sophisticated machinery, were also unable to bring him back to life. Bill had left us.

A short ceremony was held at the cemetery in Montejaque, before Bill’s coffin was inserted into a nicho (niche), donated by the local council.  Among the mourners were local Spanish neighbours, as well as friends from six other countries.

We couldn’t believe it!  Our friend Bill, although turned 60, yet the fittest man hereabouts, had died in his sleep of a heart attack. It rocked the local community.  The outpouring of grief and support from Spanish locals as well as British immigrants was remarkable.

Apart from many acts of kindness by Spanish neighbours, for example offers of meals for Bill’s widow, Jill, in the immediate aftermath of his passing, the support of Montejaque Town Hall was unprecedented.  Not only did they put themselves and the village services at Jill’s disposal, they didn’t charge her a céntimo.   They donated a nicho in the village cemetery and provided all their funeral facilities free-of-charge.

The funeral parlour in nearby Ronda also prepared the body and provided a coffin and agreed to waive their charges.

The support of Bill’s friends and relatives has also been excellent.  Despite the short time between death and burial here, 24 hours, several managed to fly out from the UK in time, to join the several dozen mourners of six nationalities, who live in the Serranía de Ronda.

British neighbours also helped Jill immensely by providing practical, as well as emotional support since his death.  They are contributed donations towards a marble lápida, or headstone, for the niche, so that there is now a permanent memorial to a man who enriched the lives of so many in our quiet village.


August 2013 - Tony Bishop, Montejaque

Tony Bishop, a retired lecturer turned walking guide, from England, and Eva Monika Bratek, a photographer and naturalist from Poland, met in Andalucía, fell in love and set up home together, first in Benaoján and then in neighbouring Montejaque.

In May 2011 they married in a civil ceremony, performed in the open air against a backdrop of mountain scenery. The wedding was led by the retiring mayor of Montejaque, Miguel Alza Hiraldo, with friends from Spain, England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Columbia, Germany and Finland in attendance. I was privileged to be among them.

In the preceding couple of years, Tony and Eva had jointly researched and written a fabulous walking guide “Walking in the Ronda Mountains”, which was published by Editorial La Serrania in February 2011. I still have a dedicated copy on my bookshelf.

Tony had sadly developed Parkinson’s disease and suffered a serious fall at home in Montejaque in August 2013. Despite being rushed to Málaga by air ambulance and receiving excellent medical care, he didn’t survive. His widow, Eva, organised a memorial get-together in Montejaque towards the end of 2013. 

We were all saddened when he suddenly left us in the prime of his life. Tony was just 74.


December 2013 Vera Valerie Whitelock, Yate

Vera Valerie Whitelock, my mum, died in December 2013 near Yate, South Gloucestershire, two weeks after Nelson Mandela. Born in the same year as the South African, 1918, Vera Valerie was chuffed that she had outlived the great man.

I was due to fly to England two days after her death to spend Christmas with her, but she passed too soon. I still went and was able to register her death, apply for probate and tie up all the loose ends. Not what I had envisaged for that Christmas.

Vera Valerie lost her father at a very young age and was raised along with two siblings by her widowed mother, Sarah, my gran.

She married quite young but was widowed within a year when her husband John died suddenly of pneumonia.

She met my dad, also called John, who was lodging with his sister in the house next door to my mum’s, while he worked at RAF Chivenor. Dad was divorced with a young daughter, who was being looked after in South Wales by one of his brothers. (Dad’s wife had run off to the USA with an American GI, leaving Heather behind).

Vera Valerie and John Albert got married in 1948 and I came along two years later and my brother Simon three years after me in 1953.

In 1964 we moved to Exeter, the county town of Devon, where I completed my education before going up north to Salford to university. My brother went away to uni in Bristol three years later.

After Simon got married to Norma and had a daughter, Nicki, our parents moved to be near them, to Yate near Bristol. They stayed there until Dad died in 1985. Mum stayed put and successfully built a new social life as a widow.

After my two kids, Amy and Tom, were born in 1983 and 1987 respectively, Vera Valerie surprised us all by moving to Thelwall near Warrington, where we were living, so that she could “enjoy my grandchildren growing up”.

After my marriage to Jeryl ended in divorce in 2005, and a subsequent failed relationship, I lived for a year or so with my mum in her bungalow in Thelwall. It worked well. I paid the bills, did the shopping and cooked dinner every night. Mum continued with her healthy social life and, she said, enjoyed not living alone again.

In September 2008 I met the “Lovely Rita“ in Ronda and the rest is history. I moved to be with Rita in Montejaque (Andalucía) at the end of 2008, we married in 2010, and bought Villa Indiana, where we now live, in 2011.

Despite her advancing age and increasing frailty, mum was very active around this time. She attended the graduation ceremonies of Amy at The Queen’s College, Oxford and Tom at Liverpool (LIPA) and Sidcup (Rose Bruford College), saw Tom perform on stage in his West End debut, attended mine and Rita’s wedding in Maulbronn Abbey in Germany and visited us in our new home, Villa Indiana in Ronda.

Mum had been a frequent visitor to Ronda over the years, and she managed it that one last time before she died. She was happy that I was married again and enjoyed her final visit to Spain, pottering around our garden, dead-heading the roses and plucking unwanted weeds out of the ground. She was in her element. I even think she made it into the pool!

Despite the early hardships as a child, early widowhood, the deprivations during and after the Second World War, being widowed a second time, she came through and made a good life for herself. She outlived her brother and sister – and Nelson Mandela, of course!


2015 - Antonio Calle, Montejaque

Antonio Calle fell ill with cancer and died. I liked Toni. We had something in common – Germany. He had left Montejaque as a young man to work in Germany as part of the Gastarbeiterprogramm. He met his wife there, a Croat called Enisa. They had a son and daughter, both born in Germany, in Güglingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg.

They eventually returned “home” to Montejaque where they had a house built.

Toni’s son, also Antonio, lives in Montejaque with his German wife and two children.

His daughter, Monica, lives in Ronda with her daughter and Spanish husband.


March 2018 - Philip Edge, Montejaque and Aberystwyth, Wales

I’d known “Felipe” Edge for a good decade and a half. He and his wife Sandra had pipped me and my first wife Jeryl to the post in buying a house that we’d had our eyes on in Montejaque (Malaga) in 2001.

A Scot, public schoolboy and career policeman – let’s face it, three good reasons for me not to like the man! – Philip was in fact very likeable, erudite, and well-read, an hispanophile to his boots, and nuts about the bullfight. He lost his cancer battle at his second home in Aberystwyth.

There is a great photograph in Bar El Caniche in Montejaque of Philip looking healthy and handsome, as we all like to remember him. He was 66.


December 2018 - Enisa Bilic, Montejaque

Enisa, widow of Antonio Calle (see above), died after a short illness. Born in Croatia, then part of Yugoslavia, she had moved to Germany to work and met Antonio. They married, had two children, and after retirement moved to Montejaque, Antonio’s home village.

Fluent in three languages, Spanish, German and Serbo-Croat, Enisa took great pleasure in helping foreign newcomers to the village with Spanish bureaucracy, including my German wife, Rita. They became great friends. We attended her funeral in Montejaque, along with most of the village.




May 2020 - Andy Shepherd, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Andy was the husband of my niece Nicki. He died in a plane crash at the age of 44 leaving her a widow and their two young children, Alex and Willow.

Nicki and Andy emigrated to Newcastle, Australia a dozen years ago. Andy was a trained pilot and aeronautical engineer. He was flying his light plane in nearby Maitland, but shortly after take-off the engine stalled and he crashed while trying to land. He died instantly.

Because of Covid restrictions in force at the time, no family members were allowed to fly to Australia for the funeral. However, the service was filmed and relayed live on the internet.

In 2022 Nicki, Alex and Willow came to England with Andy's ashes which were scattered in a wood at Lympsfield Chart in Surrey. All the family gathered for the ceremony, which was uplifting, yet sad.


March 2021 - Carlos Ernesto Escalante Alza, Montejaque

Carlos Ernesto Escalante Alza, el primer teniente de alcalde de Montejaque, died, aged 57, a victim of Covid-19. Few could believe the news. Carlos was one of the fittest men around. He had represented local party ADIA on Montejaque Council since 2015.


Carlos Ernesto Escalante Alza (Diario Sur)

The council declared three days of official mourning after his death and in 2023 erected a bust in his honour in front of the Town Hall.

Mayor of Montejaque, Diego Sánchez Sánchez said at the time: "Carlos’ passing has saddened many people and in particular all montejaqueñ@s who were fortunate that he was deputy mayor of our village.”


2022 - Andres Moya Guzman

Andres was the owner of Bar Peruco in Montejaque. I first came across him in October 2001 when we were staying in the village and looking at properties. Later that day we bought an apartment in Ronda.

Fast forward to 2008 when, after redundancy, early retirement and divorce, I emigrated from the UK and came to live in Montejaque. I then became a regular in the bar, coming most days for early morning coffee.

Andres was a gentle and kindly man. We were all shocked when he contracted Covid-19 and died.

His widow and son did not want to carry on with the bar, so it was closed and the building was turned into two apartments.


2022 -  Diego Calle Garcia

Awaiting copy


January 2023 - Antonio “Dupe”, Montejaque

The English-speaking community all knew Antonio as the “dupe man”, as at some time he delivered logs, gas bottles, furniture, building materials and shopping to our houses up the hill.

He died after a longish battle with cancer. At his funeral I reckon most of the village was there. A well-liked neighbour he was only in his early 60s. Very sad.


January 2023 - Heather May Davies, Neath, S Wales

In February of this year, we buried my half-sister, Heather Davies, in Port Talbot, South Wales. Heather died after a long battle against Parkinson’s Disease. She was 83.

Heather was my dad’s daughter from his first marriage. Her mother didn’t want Heather and Dad couldn’t manage work and single parenthood, so one of his brothers, Len, and wife Vinna, took Heather in and brought her up as their own.

I didn’t really know Heather that well and hadn’t seen her for years, but I was moved to attend her funeral along with my few remaining Welsh cousins.

I’m glad I did go. Heather’s funeral service at the crematorium near Port Talbot, was also a celebration of her life with a moving eulogy from her only son, Cerith. I found out a lot about my sibling that I didn’t know before. The service was conducted in two languages: Welsh and English. The Davies family were Welsh-speaking and Welsh was the language of their home.



May 2023 - Guy Hunter-Watts, Montecorto

Guy Hunter-Watts, a neighbour and friend who lived in this part of Andalucía for over 30 years, died on Sunday 14 May 2023 from injuries sustained in a road accident, whilst riding his bike.

Guy Hunter-Watts was from Bristol and came to Andalucía as a young man. He fell in love with the area and after settling here went on to become a distinguished writer, walking guide and all-round good 'guy'. Appropriately named, I'd say!

He lived for many years in the tiny village of Montecorto (Málaga) where he also had some high-class rental properties.

Guy lived in Andalucía for more than 30 years and was passionate about his adopted country. He worked as a freelance journalist and walking guide and wrote extensively about walking, hotels, and travel. 

Guy's first experience of walking in Andalucía came more than three decades back when he discovered the stunning trails of the Grazalema and Ronda mountains. Since then, he dedicated much of his professional life to researching and writing walking guides about this uniquely beautiful part of Spain.

His guides contain clear yet detailed route notes and maps, GPS references, along with recommendations for good places to stay and to eat, as well as overviews of all the areas described.

I first came across the name Guy Hunter-Watts when I bought a copy of his guide "Walking in Andalucía" some 20 years ago. A few years later I met him in the company of another walking guide writer, Tony Bishop, who sadly left us in 2013 (see above).

I bought a copy of the sixth edition of "Walking in Andalucía", in which he wrote a personal dedication. It still sits in pride of place on my bookshelf.

Later, I heard him on BBC Radio 4, in the "Ramblings" series presented by Clare Balding. In theory, this should be available on YouTube or BBC Sounds, but I couldn't find it. That was in 2002.

Last year I bumped into Guy by chance at a builder's merchant in Ronda. I knew who he was, but, much to my surprise, he also knew of me from my writings on various websites.

I bumped into him a few times since then, in Montejaque and Jimera de Libar. The last time I saw him was two weeks ago and we agreed to meet up in his beloved Montecorto for a few beers. Alas, that will now never happen! 

Although I didn't really know him well, I liked Guy a lot. He had the same passion for the Serrania de Ronda that I have, he was lively and entertaining, liked a drink and was an all-round-good “Guy”. I am gutted by his passing.

Guy wrote ten books, which are all still in print.

His website is still active: Walking books – Guy Hunter Watts 


May 2023 - Jesper Sander Pederson, Torremolinos

Jesper Sander Pedersen was a founding member of the Costa Press Club, an association formed in 2007 to bring together media professionals in the south of Spain.

When I joined the CPC in 2009, I didn’t know anybody. Jesper went out of his way to welcome me at my first meeting and at all meetings since, he took the trouble to speak to me and introduce me to other members.

Jesper, a highly respected Danish journalist, died in hospital in Málaga after a short illness. He was born on 26 August 1961 in Hellerup near Copenhagen in Denmark. He studied at the journalism college in Aarhus, before heading to Spain to visit his aunt and uncle who had bought a house in a small coastal village.

After moving to the Costa del Sol for good in 1986, Jesper worked as a freelance journalist for Scandinavian magazines as well as for Danish media.

And the Costa - specifically Rincón de la Victoria - is where he met his Spanish wife, Rocío, who he married back in 1987. They lived for many years in Fuengirola before moving to Torremolinos.

Jesper was also a presenter on Radio Solymar until 2014, before branching out as a tour guide for leading Danish travel companies.

More recently he ran his own assistance and advisory service to help Danish people deal with Spanish bureaucracy, documents and applications.

As already indicated, Jesper was a founding member of the Costa Press Club and was president of the club for many of its 21 years until his death.

A spokesperson for the CPC committee said, "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Jesper Sander Pedersen, our dear friend and club president, following a brain aneurism.

"Our thoughts are with his wife Rocío, their son Jakob and Jesper's family and friends at this terribly difficult time.

"Jesper was president of our club for many of its 21 years. His enthusiasm for a liberal media and the integration of foreign nationalities into Costa del Sol life abounded. He dedicated much of his personal and professional time tirelessly making people feel welcome, always with a smile and genuine interest.

"You leave a hole in our club and our lives, Jesper. Rest in Peace."

A mass in memory of Jesper was held on Tuesday, 23 May, at Torremolinos cemetery, which I attended, along with family, friends, and other CPC members.


DEP/RIP all our departed family, friends and neighbours


© Paul Whitelock

Like 1


Only registered users can comment on this blog post. Please Sign In or Register now.


This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More information here. x