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Des Stumpf 2002

 Pieter George Desmond (Des) Stumpf (MB.ChB. 1966)

Of brain cancer, at his home in Durbanville, Cape, on February 4, 2002. One of Oranjemund’s larger than life characters, Des was a very warm human being who accomplished much in a busy life. In his early twenties he gave up accountancy to switch to medicine and, like many students of his era, soon ran out of money. Oranjemund beckoned as a way of funding his medical studies and he spent a year on the mines, returning annually throughout his student years to renew his many friendships and keep the coffers full.

He early showed his talents as a pianist and singer, leading a group known as The Bachelors Gay (not a title that would have stood up today) and ran a series of night club evenings in the Recreation Club that always attracted a full house. His repertoire ran from the risqué and raucous that shook the building, to sentimental ballads that had late night revellers in tears. His annual Bums Convention - where heaven help you if you wore anything you hadn’t found at the dump - was a rowdy Tramps Ball at which the punch was served from a series of toilet bowls and music supplied by a picaresque collection of ragged scarecrows playing everything from comb and paper to banjos, squeeze boxes, a tea chest and 44-gallon drums. Needless to say, it was always a sell-out.

Hugely charismatic, Des loved life and living, and always attracted a following. In an outstanding student career he was elected class president, chaired the Medical Students Council and was intervarsity cheerleader for two years in succession. No mean sportsman, he also represented UCT at squash. He graduated MB.Ch.B in 1966 and worked as a General Practitioner at Touwsrivier, Durbanville and Mowbray.

In later years he increasingly gave much of his time to the underprivileged. He served for 12 years as a Rotarian and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship. Des also chaired the Tygerberg Division of the Community Chest of the Western Cape, was national chair of the Prisoners Aftercare League, a founder member and executive of the Northern Areas Drug Action Committee and an executive of the Carpenters Shop - a rehabilitation and upliftment facility for the street people of central Cape Town.

As a consultant general practitioner he gave his services freely to the Khayelitsha Town Council and held various posts at Westfleur Hospital in Atlantis. In 1996 he was awarded the Distinguished Family Practitioner Gold Medal for 25 years pro deo service and three years later the Melvin Jones International Fellowship Award for dedicated humanitarian service - a Lions International Foundation award.

Despite his failing strength during his battle with cancer, Des worked a full weekly shift in his free clinic amid the squatter camps of Khayalitsha in the Western Cape until a few days before he went into a coma and died a month later. He detested charlatan faith healers and fought a successful campaign against them both in South Africa and internationally. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne, and children Rori, Heidi, Sonja and Margo.

For those of us privileged to have known Des Stumpf, the world is indeed the poorer for his passing.


(written by Bob Molloy)