WELL-KNOWN minister, writer, poet and former editor of Sarie and Rapport, Izak de Villiers, 73, died early on Sunday morning at his home in Johannesburg, writes Alicestine october on news24.com.

His wife, Rina, said he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease earlier this month. It is a condition that affects muscle activity such as speech, walking, breathing and later swallowing as well.

"He had been ill over the past two years, but it could never be established what was wrong with him."

She said it was as if he knew he was passing away. "He wasn't scared. He was a deeply devout Christian. He was only scared that his mind would be affected, but it was painless and his mind was clear."

He woke her up early on Sunday morning to ask her to help him sit up straight.

"He was breathing with difficulty because the disease had decreased his lung capacity. It was a normal conversation between two people who had come a long way together," she said about her last conversation with her husband.

Tributes to De Villiers poured in on Sunday.

Danie van Niekerk, a longtime friend and former head of Tafelberg Publishers, said that in his career, where he had dealt with "highly intelligent people, De Villiers was one of the brightest".

"He was a man who could be insightful about president Jimmy Carter's defects and just as easily discuss Calvin's virtues, talk about Saint Teresa of Avila or his beloved Paarl. And he was one of our finest poets."

Writer Rachelle Greeff said she had lost a conversation partner. "At times in my life he was a father figure. I always saw the poet and the man of God first. He was a deeply, deeply spiritual person."

Former journalist and longtime friend, Fritz Joubert, said De Villiers was one of the most versatile writers and journalists.

Writer André le Roux said De Villiers could be argumentative "but he was always honest and it counted in his favour".

Click here to read the full report, posted on news24.com.