One more angel in heaven
When 13-year-old Joshua Le Roux sang, danced, and shone on stage as one of the brothers in King David Victory Park’s (KDVP’s) stage production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in March, no-one was to know that he wouldn’t make it to his 14th birthday.
An aggressive tumour would paralyse him and eventually take his life on 9 July.
His devastated parents are joined by “a community in mourning” at his senseless passing, in the words of his school principal, Andrew Baker.
“Joshua has been at KDVP since Grade R. He was a Parker through and through,” says his mother, Elizabeth Dunsmuir. “Joshua was having the best year. He loved KDVP High School. He was passionate about singing, drama, ice-skating, baking, and more. He was a brilliant artist and achieved high academic marks. He was an all-rounder, who questioned everything and believed in people and in magic.”
Everything changed when Joshua was unable to walk properly in the week of 10 April 2023.
“We picked this up while we were on holiday in Dullstroom,” says Dunsmuir. It was to be their last holiday as a family. “On Sunday 16 April, Joshua was diagnosed with a 10.3cm tumour in his spine. By the time he was operated on at Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre – a six-hour surgery – on 19 April, he was paralysed from the neck down. Joshua was then intubated and heavily sedated. Two weeks later he had a tracheotomy operation. He was on a ventilator the entire time.”
They were told his tumour was “low grade”, but further testing was done in the United Kingdom (UK). Meanwhile, Joshua was moved to Milpark Hospital for 28 radiation sessions. “By then he was doing really well at regaining some use of his arms and upper body, and the doctor immediately started to try weaning him off the ventilator,” says his mother. “On 15 June, the results came back from the UK that Joshua’s tumour was a high-grade, rare tumour with no cure.
“On Thursday 22 June, Joshua woke up and was unable to see properly. He had swelling on his brain. They did an MRI scan and two lumbar punctures over the next few days, and told us the tumour had seeded into Joshua’s cerebral fluid. He had been fighting so hard and progressing so well, but he passed away on the morning of 9 July. He had spent a gruelling 12 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).”
Dunsmuir, her husband, and the whole community are grieving for “a beautiful, magical soul who made such a difference to everyone he met,” she says. “We’ve been inundated with messages – it must be more than 1 500. Josh managed to change people’s lives even while he was sick. Rabbi [Yisroel] Uzvolk told us that he was an old soul, whose soul was too big for his body.”
Many others saw Joshua’s unique and special nature. He attended Habonim Dror, and the youth movement paid tribute to their chaver. “Joshua could light up every room he was in. He was kind, outgoing, and the true definition of a mensch.” On reading the tribute, his mother wrote on Facebook. “All he wanted to do was come back to camp this December.”
Joshua would never make it back to the Habonim campsite, but when he started his Grade 8 year, the future looked bright. “Joshua started Grade 8 in January this year in the high school,” says Baker. “He was an outgoing, friendly young man who came with a very close-knit group of friends, but immediately made a whole lot of new friends with students who joined us from other primary schools. He was well-loved by his peers and teachers alike. In that group of brothers [in Joseph], there was a tight bond among the boys, and Joshua was integral to that dynamic.”
“Grade 8s coming to King David are given options of electives,” says head of arts, culture, and dramatic arts at KDVP, Renos Spanoudes. “In terms of the arts and culture subjects, the electives we offer are drama, music, visual arts, and dance. Why I mention all of them is that if Joshua could have done them all, he would have. He was a natural performer with a particular skill for characterisation, and was someone who could discuss sets, costume and lighting, do accents, play different ages, sing, and dance. He did a drama major, and at the beginning of the year, our set text was the well-known South African play Bar and Ger by Geraldine Aron. He played Barry and he was excellent.”
Spanoudes is devastated at Joshua’s passing, but takes comfort from the lyrics of a song in Joseph: “There’s one more angel in heaven, there’s one more star in the sky.”
Orion Ghetz Avinir was Joshua’s rosh at machaneh. “I first met Josh at camp last year. He was an extremely big presence. He was funny, respectful, and thoughtful. If any tensions arose among friends, he was always the voice of reason. During activities he was always fully involved, and it revealed his high level of intellect.”
His lasting memories are of Joshua enjoying all that machaneh had to offer, in an environment that allowed him to shine. “I was optimistic that we would see him again this year at camp. At machaneh, every person matters. If someone has a great personality with great enthusiasm, that affects the other kids. Josh definitely had that effect on others. We’re going to feel this loss tremendously.”
Addressing his son, his father, Jerrard Le Roux, says that in the last three months, he was able to “see the boy you were and the man you became. Even in the hardest, darkest days when the end was near, you still found a reason to smile. As heartbroken as I am, I know that you wouldn’t want us to feel sad. All I can do is try see the world through your eyes and feel just a little bit of joy. I know you would want us all to do this.”
“For the last three months, Joshua kept fighting and being his charming, sparkling, humorous self,” says Dunsmuir. “When he moved to the Milpark ICU, his perseverance gave other adults in ICU the strength to get better, get up, and get moving. He spoke to the nurses in English and Zulu, and his room became their first stop. He was able to have in-depth discussions with specialist doctors and surgeons about topics beyond his years.
“He passed peacefully, with Jerrard and me by his side, holding his hands with all the love we have felt for him since he took his first breath. He was Joshua Dunsmuir Le Roux, a Hufflepuff through and through, and loyal, patient, kind, selfless, humble, forgiving, inclusive, courageous, and brave. His wizard magic lives on in all of us.”