Dr Don Heath 1967-2015.
Don was bom in Bulawayo, Rhodesia, and was educated at Gifford High School and then the University of Zimbabwe; in due course, he received his BSc, MSc, and DSC degrees. He worked for the then Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management between 1986 and 1999, eventually leaving the department as acting Chief Ecologist. While with National Parks, Don's chief area of responsibility was in setting and issuing scientifically-determined and sustainable hunting quotas for the safari industry. Upon leaving National Parks, Don completed the various components to get his Professional Hunter's licence in 2000.
Don was an avid sport shooter, and held Zimbabwe national colours in both in the Bisley Service Rifle and the International Practical Shooting Confederation Practical Pistol disciplines.
Seeing how sport shooting and hunting skills could be beneficial to one another, Don was instrumental in bridging the gap between National Parks, the Safari Operators' Association of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Sport Shooting Federation, with the result that the shooting proficiency examination for aspirant Zimbabwe PHs and Guides is now administered through the Federation with the sanction of National Parks and the safari operators, to die highest possible industry standards. Don served as Chief Examiner for SOAZ for many years.
In 1999, Don joined the staff of African Hunter magazine as Editor. One of Don's great passions was history, and he incorporated this into much of his writing. His personal favourite all-round African rifle calibre was the venerable 9.3 x 62mm. A crack shot and experienced reloader, it served him well throughout his time in the African bush. An in-depth look at other African "classics" resulted in a series of articles for African Hunter which evolved into the book Classic African Cartridges, co-authored with Charlie Haley. There are probably very few folk out there who don't know that Don was also "Ganyana". under which nom deplume he did some of his best writing.
It was my pleasure to have known Don for almost thirty years. He engendered in me an interest in the classic African rifle calibres, and he was also the one who developed my interest in taking up IPSC Practical Pistol competitively. Don's last big match was the 2002 world championships in the then Pietersberg in South Africa, where he acquitted himself very creditably with a Smith & Wesson model 610 revolver through which he fired .40S&W ammunition. During the five-day match, he held the voluntary post of national team manager, which added extra hours onto already long, hot days on the range. This, more than anything else, was characteristic of Don Heath--his unbounded willingness to offer whatever help and encouragement he could in any way to anyone.
For many years, "Dinner at Don's" was a weekly fixture in Harare on Tuesday evenings. Don, Charlie Haley and I would get together, each of us taking it in turn to cook something more or less palatable, but the real emphasis was on camaraderie and conversation. We would be joined by the likes of the late Brian Marsh, the artist Ian Henderson, and other folk from the range, the Professional Hunters' and Guides' Association, or National Parks and by the end of the evening Don hadn't quite as much Scotch as he had when we arrived, but all the continent's problems had been solved for another week.
In due course, Don married Sheila Stakesby-Lewis, a Bulawayo girl, and they had two highly engaging and bright children, Johanna and Iain. As the situation continued to deteriorate in Zimbabwe, Don and Sheila looked toward the future of their family. Don, because of his encyclopaedic knowledge of the hunting industry and firearms and ballistics was offered a research and development job with Nonna Precision in Sweden. It wasn't long before he was department manager. I was invited across to take a look at the Nonna operation in 2011 and, as was to be expected, it was outstanding. Don will be very sorely missed by all who knew him. His other commitments to his community--Boy Scouts, church, Toastmasters, History Society, Police Reserve--were a side to him that few but his closest friends appreciated the scope of, and his passing will leave a big vacuum, as will his ready smile, encouragement and dry wit.
Rest in peace, old friend--I J Larivers
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|Title Annotation:||Around the Campfire: Sharing ideas, views and facts.|
|Publication:||African Hunter Magazine|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2016|
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