Popular South African radio presenter Mark Pilgrim tragically lost his brave and lengthy battle against cancer on Sunday, 5 March 2023.
He was 53.
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Pilgrim had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, which he revealed back in June 2022 had spread to his femur, the base of his spine and lymph nodes.
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In a Facebook post, Pilgrim’s employers HOT 102.7FM confirmed that he died at home with fiancée Adrienne at his bedside at 10:45 having “fought valiantly until the very end”.
As reported by The South African website, Pilgrim proposed to his partner Adrienne Watkins on New Year’s Eve last year.
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In a lengthy statement from his employers HOT 102.7FM shortly after Pilgrim’s death was confirmed, the radio station wrote:
HOT 102.7FM is mourning the death of renowned broadcaster Mark Pilgrim and joins the South African radio industry in paying tribute to one of its most respected and loved presenters.
Pilgrim died at the age of 53 in Johannesburg on at 10:45am on 05 March 2023 after a battle with cancer.
He enjoyed a long and distinguished radio and television career, which culminated in him finding his ‘spiritual home’ at HOT 102.7FM, where he produced and anchored the award-winning Mark Pilgrim Show from Monday to Saturday, between 09h00 and 12h00.
“We’re devastated by Mark’s death and he leaves an enormous hole in the HOT family, as well as the broader radio industry,” says Lloyd Madurai, Managing Director of HOT 102.7FM. “Old school radio pros like Mark don’t come around very often and the only comfort we can draw is the fact that Mark had an incredible impact on not just South African radio, but the broader community, bravely fighting this awful disease in the public eye, and inspiring and giving hope to people in a similar position.”
After finding his feet on campus radio in the late 1980s, Pilgrim started his professional radio career with 5FM in the mid-1990s, spending 10 years with the station before the next decade saw him broadcasting simultaneously on 94.5 KFM across the Cape and 94.7 Highveld Stereo in Johannesburg.
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In 2014 Pilgrim joined start-up community station HOT 91.9FM and went on to pick up two SA Radio Awards in his time with the station. When a new commercial station was launched in Johannesburg in July 2021, in the form of HOT 102.7FM, Pilgrim was handed the mid-morning slot.
“I really think he found his niche in that slot,” says Madurai. “Mark’s wry sense of humour, easy-going nature, and love for all things ‘Old Skool’ mixed seamlessly with the music, and there was an originality to the content and presentation. It was just a quality radio show with the perfect tone for that time of the day.”
In 2021 Pilgrim was inducted into the SA Radio Awards Hall of Fame, but he also made his mark in TV, hosting numerous prime-time shows over the years, including, memorably, South Africa’s first ever ‘Big Brother’.
He was also a sought-after voice artist, published author, MC, corporate DJ, and motivational speaker, along with holding a BCom degree in Industrial Psychology and an MBA from Edinburgh Business School.
“Mark achieved so much and he was just the consummate professional, which we were privileged to see day in and day out,” says Madurai. “He really was an example of how to prepare and deliver a quality radio show, balancing cleverly thought-out content with the music and a silky-smooth delivery. What he brought to his show really resonated with our audience, which was clear in the incredible ratings it received.”
HOT 102.7FM extends its condolences to the family and friends of Mark Pilgrim, particularly his fiancée Adrienne and his girls Tayla-Jean and Alyssa.
The SAPeople website also extends its condolences to Pilgrim’s family and friends.