‘Mr Rand Aid’ Rae Brown leaves a legacy of greatness

Rand Aid Association lost a remarkable man when CEO Rae Brown passed away on August 26, 2019, after a spell of ill health.

When Rae took the helm 14 years ago, the 116-year-old NPO was very different to the large and distinguished organisation it is today.

“Today, thanks to his stewardship, we have an institution which, without question, is the finest of its type in Southern Africa,” says John Robinson, the Chairman of the Rand Aid Association Board.

Rae was responsible for the establishment of Inyoni Creek; the reconstructing of the Wedge Gardens Complex, the Cookchill, central laundry and workshops; as well as the acquisition and renovation of the present day Thembalami Care Centre. He was looking forward to developing a new retirement village on the property recently acquired at Glendower Golf Club.

“He was also responsible for the introduction of management systems that have brought about financial strength and, ultimately, the participation of residents on the overall board of management.

“He built up a highly competent general management team and left an infrastructure that will long continue to be successful, even after his passing,” said John.

“Rae was a man amongst men, someone I will always remember with admiration and respect. He has left very big shoes to fill and extremely large footsteps in which to tread.”

Most importantly, says John, Rae has left a heritage at Rand Aid that will last forever.

Born in Cape Town to Beric and Evelyn, Rae had a twin brother, David, and an elder brother Peter. All three attended Bishops Diocesan College as boarders from an early age.

His father was a railway engineer who had his own train carriage which he would hook onto the end of trains and travel extensively across Southern Africa. His mother was one of the first female architects in South Africa.

After school, Rae did his military training at the Naval Gymnasium in Saldanha Bay. When he moved to Johannesburg, he maintained his naval ties through his citizen force service at SAS Rand for many years, and later became actively involved again, serving on the committee of the Naval Officers Association.

He completed his BCom degree and his CTA at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he met his wife, Gail.

Rae served his articles at Cooper Brothers where he qualified as a chartered accountant. It was through Coopers that Rae gained international experience when he was transferred to London for three years.

When he returned to South Africa, he continued to work as a chartered accountant and was offered a partnership at Ross Spencer Rule. He was part of the team that managed the merger that eventually became BDO Spencer Steward, of which he later became managing partner.

Next followed a position at SARS where he set up and ran the Corporate Tax Centre. One of his many contributions at SARS was to launch a court case that finally resulted in an amendment to the tax laws.

During his time at SARS, Rae returned to university, working at night and over weekends to obtain a Higher Diploma in Tax and, subsequently, a Higher Diploma in International Tax.

Following SARS, he moved to Rand Aid Association in 2005, commencing another fulfilling and happy period in his work life. His vision and determination helped transform Rand Aid into the flourishing and renowned institution that it is today.

In his personal life, Rae gave so much of himself in many ways. He served on the Rosebank Primary School committee for many years, for most of these as chairman. He served on Sea Scouts, SPCA, Quondam Village and the Naval Officers Association committees, amongst many others. Rae was often asked to join a committee when an organisation was in trouble and only resigned once it was in a stable and sound financial position.

A great man

At his funeral service at St George’s Anglican Church on September 2, and at the Rand Aid memorial service the following day, family and colleagues paid tribute to Rae.

Unfortunately, space constraints prevent us from sharing them all.

“Throughout his life, when Dad set a goal, he achieved it. This is clearly seen in his work at Rand Aid. Dad was able to do this due to his ability to carry people forward with him; he understood people, he listened to everyone, he saw talents in people and drew them out even when the people themselves were unable to see these skills. He built communities involving everyone, across all lines and barriers, from different backgrounds and cultures, from the staff to the residents and all for the greater good,” said son Michael.

“Dad’s gentle nature and characteristics of decency, integrity, humility, determination, optimism and inner strength have shone through all he has done.”

Wife Gail said Rae was a steadfast and marvelous husband for 51 years, always loyal, always supportive and always knowing what to do in trying circumstances.

All the tributes had a universal theme – Rae’s dry humour. This anecdote – shared by Michael – captures that perfectly: “When he resumed his studies as a mature adult, he visited Kew Gardens in London, where he produced both his Senior Citizens Card and his Student Card at the ticketing office and asked the lady which card would give him the better discount!”

Said Ayanda Matthews, Rand Aid’s GM: Compliance & Social React Division: “It didn’t matter what station in life you were at, Rae respected you. Thank you for the love, the support and the wisdom.”

Phyllis Phillips, Elphin Lodge’s Liaison Manager, said Rae was a quintessential leader.

Ann Raats, a Thornhill Manor resident who served on the Board of Management of Rand Aid Association and the Board of Trustees of the RA Welfare Development Trust, among other committees, said Rae was far sighted and thoughtful.

“His decisions were made with an empathy that built bridges with those he dealt with. This helped residents to work together with Exco and the Board to our mutual benefit. The first giant step was made when the need for our own Constitution was identified and Exco members drew up the document that allowed each village to have representation at their meetings and on the Board.

“I knew Rae as a gentle man with a dry sense of humour and quiet wisdom whose leadership has carried us forward to where we are today.”

Rae leaves behind his wife Gail and four children – Michael, Catherine, Tamara and Patrick.

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