N3TC Heroes – Mariette and Dave Steele
“You can’t leave footprints in the sands of time sitting on your butt. Who wants to leave butt prints?”
The Steele household oozes positivity – an infectious ‘can do’ attitude. The fact that the internet relay for much of Ladysmith is atop their home well illustrates the pivotal role they play in this community. You get the feeling that nothing is too much to ask of them – Dave and Mariette are a formidable team.
“I could squeeze in something else, I suppose” says Mariette, “but I need to pay attention to my family’s needs too.” Family includes Dave, teenager Michaela, Ouma, four dogs – Snowey, Storm, Luna and Jack, Polly the Cockatiel and cats Vlos and Boykie. Actually much of Ladysmith whose lives they have touched are included in family too.
When they got married 22 years ago, Dave was a rookie traffic officer. The day they arrived back from honeymoon, Dave was called up for a month’s military camp and things haven’t really improved much since then – Mariette had to get used to spending much time alone while Dave was on duty. She soon realised that Dave was absolutely passionate about his job (his first wife, she quips!) and that the best thing she could do was find a way to support him in the work he does. “On our Anniversary there was a huge accident, our plans had to be cancelled. You just never know what will happen and we have to be completely flexible.” Dave says.
Dave is now Station Commander for the entire Ladysmith district, renowned along the N3 for his positive outlook, leadership, organisational skills and commitment,. He is at work by 5.45am and many weekends are spent on the road. Holiday times get hectic and he needs to be on the ball to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Accidents often happen at night which means he never switches off his phone. It became apparent when Mariette tagged along to accident scenes, that there was a need for someone to provide a little love for those involved. She began handing out teddy bears, blankets and biscuits this slowly grew into what is now known as Angels in Motion. Mariette qualified as a Paramedic some years ago and more recently studied trauma counselling. Angels in Motion was her initiative and introduced as a support mechanism to those families and individuals who require assistance.
Yashik Tharachand of Sharaj Emergency Medical services says “I am always pleased when Mr Steele is in charge of an accident scene. It is well organised, efficient and there is no confusion,” adding, “Mrs Steele is so good at taking care of people and making them feel safe, I am very proud to work with her. Every town needs people like this.” Philip Hull founder of Community Medical Services “Dave is always at any major accident scene, and then we have the added comfort of knowing, that once those involved arrive in Ladysmith, either to be hospitalised or perhaps requiring accommodation, Mariette is there to look after their requirements. I can honestly say that I don’t know many couples that have such a wonderful desire to help others and really make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Dave firmly believes that visible policing is one to the most effective weapons that the Traffic departments have. The N3 between Durban and Gauteng is the busiest in Africa. Dave takes his role of keeping the road open and traffic flowing smoothly very seriously –‘the economy stands still when the road is closed.’
Ladysmith resident, Magda du Plessis concludes, “I think Dave knows every road sign and corner of the N3 and R103. He is always available and 24/7 he constantly posts updates on Twitter to share information on road safety. Mariette is an outstanding woman, she sacrifices her time, talents and resources to make a difference in the lives of others. These two have great integrity and our community is better for their influence.”
There is clearly no sitting around in the Steele household then.