A tribute to Ronnie Graham

It is with deep regret and sadness that we announce the passing of Ronnie Graham (58) in February 2021. At the time of his sudden and unexpected passing was the General Manager and Director of Widatech, the official distributors of Widia tooling products and systems, a brand that Ronnie was very passionate about.

Ronnie who had over 28 years of experience in selling cutting, forming and related tools in South Africa was a friend a colleague to many people in our industry.

The late Ronnie Graham

The man with a big smile and bigger heart. He had a huge passion for his work and always had his lap top with him so he could look information on his products or send an invoice immediately, even when he was on holiday with his wife Ina.

Ronnie was always willing to help customers and colleagues and he had a vast knowledge of his product, which he could prove and test in most instances.

Ronnie started off his career in the engineering industry after first completing his schooling at Evander High School in the town of Evander in the province of Mpumalanga. This was subsequently followed with compulsory military service at the age of 18 before Ronnie enrolled as a fitter and turner at Eskom, where he completed his apprenticeship.

Out doing what he loved – off-road tripping

Ronnie then went on to continue his career as a fitter and turner Rotek Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eskom Enterprises. After a few years of gaining intimate machining knowledge at Rotek Industries Ronnie moved to Auto Industrial, a major South African supplier of components to automotive OEM industry, and was appointed as CNC programmer and production foreman.

Ronnie then ‘crossed the divide’ and joined Sandvik Coromant as a sales engineer on the cutting tool side of the business. This is where he met friend and current colleague and fellow shareholder Stan Sanetra, who will run Widatech going forward and build on Ronnie’s legacy.

In between Sandvik and establishing Widatech Ronnie spent time at Pilot Tools, South Africa’s only manufacturer of cutting tools. Ronnie joined as a sales engineer but before he left he had risen through the ranks to be Sales Manager having completed 11 years with the company.

Widatech was only established in January 2011 and at the time Ronnie was the only employee. He had subsequently built the company up to the extent the Widia brand is very recognised throughout South Africa.

With colleague and fellow shareholder Stan Sanetra

Besides his passion and enthusiasm for the brand Ronnie made sure he was up-to-date with any new developments and launches of new products. He would regularly attend management training courses internationally and never missed one in the 10 years that he was associated with Widia.

The Widia name comes from the German phrase ‘hart wie diamant’ or ‘hard as a diamond’ and is synonymous in Europe with carbide cutting tools as Ferrari is to high-performance automobiles. Ronnie had the look of ‘hard as a diamond’ but those that knew him only saw softness and kindness oozing from him. His fit and healthy look rather came from his love of off-road motoring and Ronnie spent many hours exploring the beauty of South Africa such as the Sani Pass and Die Hel in the Gamtoos Kloof or doing 4×4 trails, one of his favourites was the Kungwini trail near Bronkhortspruit.

Ronnie will be greatly missed by his family, his ex-colleagues at Widatech, his long-standing friends and everyone who knew him. RIP Ronnie.

Eds note: “Our sincere condolences to Ronnie’s wife Ina, his daughter Taryn who has been working with Ronnie at Widatech for a number of years and his two sons – Sean and Dwaine. Ronnie was a valued and long-time supporter of Metalworking News.”