The library hero who turned his Hillview garage into a safe space where children could study, play and have free meals has passed away.
Wednesday morning John Nicholson collapsed while preparing food for the community.
His brother tells the Daily Voice that the 55-year-old died at the Retreat Day Hospital.
A hartseer Mark Nicholson says: “We are still not sure what the cause of death is.
“But two months ago he had a stroke while he was sleeping.”
He says John’s legacy to keep the spirit of reading alive will carry on through his family.
“His two sons and wife will continue helping the community the way he did. The truth is he died doing what he loved,” Mark adds.
John and his wife Gail have been serving the Hillview community for over 15 years with their organisation, called Omega View.
They made headlines in 2016 when the Daily Voice reported that they had converted their garage into a library, where children could read and do their homework.
The library is named “Siyafunda”, which means “we read”.
The upholsterer received numerous awards and was also named a South African Hero by e.tv, an initiative which celebrates hard-working people in their communities.
However, in April 2018, the City of Cape Town’s Municipal Planning Tribunal found there was no building plan for the garage and John was forced to shut the library or face a fine of R730.
This came after he was approached by a sponsor, Jean Williams of Biblionef SA, who offered to replace the metal sheeting of the leaking roof.
When he and Williams approached the City, they learnt no plan had been submitted for the garage and John was told that he had to remove the roof and apply for a land use permit and permission to operate his library.
He had to pack up 12 000 books and place them in storage while the structure was being rebuilt.
The tenacious hero reopened his library in November 2019 after two years of struggle.
John’s death has sent shockwaves through the Lavender Hill community.