Obituary: Dr John Godlonton
Obituary: Dr John Godlonton
The Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) is saddened by the death of former Comrades Medical Portfolio Convener, Dr John Godlonton. He was 77 years old. The good doctor has been described as a phenomenal person who was active in various roles at the CMA and the KZN Rugby Sub-Union since the 70’s.
He was a member of the CMA Executive Committee from 1980 to 1988, of which he was the Vice-Chair for two years. He headed the Comrades Medical Portfolio for nearly two decades, starting in 1977.
Dr Godlonton completed the Comrades Marathon four times and was awarded his CMA Life Membership with Honours in 1988.
CMA Medical Portfolio Convener, Dr Jeremy Boulter says, ‘I first met Dr John Godlonton when I was an intern at Edendale Hospital, where he was a Specialist Paediatrician. He was an amazing teacher, with a fantastic ability to impart knowledge in a practical, easily understandable manner.’
Jeremy adds, ‘Dr John was also a great lover of parties, and was always keen to put on some funny garb. He was a great raconteur and speech maker. He also loved performing on stage and took part in many of Meryl Kurz’ Pig and Whistle shows.’
In 1976 a friend of John’s was admitted to hospital after running Comrades, suffering from Acute Renal Failure. John, who was on the Comrades Executive Committee, realized that if his friend had been given intravenous fluid after he had finished, this could have been avoided. So in 1977 he set himself up in the referees change room of the then Jan Smuts Stadium (renamed Harry Gwala Stadium) in Pietermaritzburg. Thus began the Comrades Medical Facility, which has recently been described as arguably “the biggest, most well equipped, temporary medical facility outside of a conflict zone anywhere in the world.” That statement is a legacy to an incredible human being.’
Jeremy tells us that Dr John was a principled man. ‘John resigned from the CMA Executive Committee and from his position as Comrades Chief Medical Officer in 1995. This was on a matter of principle, as he was opposed to the proposed introduction of prize money to Comrades.’
Jeremy concludes, ‘Even after I had taken over as the Medical Convener, John continued to come and work in the Medical Tent, as one of our senior doctors every year, until he moved to Grahamstown. The Comrades Marathon fraternity and many thousands of runners who have passed through the Comrades Medical Tent in the last 39 years owe a huge debt of gratitude to an extraordinary person. A man of vision, compassion, humour, integrity and principle. Dr John Godlonton will be sorely missed but never forgotten.’
CMA Elder and former Chairperson, Mick Winn paid tribute to Dr John as the very first convener of the Comrades Marathon Medical Portfolio. ‘During this time Dr John was responsible for implementing protocols and standards which are utilized to this day, and which are emulated at other events. I will always remember Dr John as a compassionate, intelligent, energetic and humanitarian soul, whose contribution to Comrades and the well-being of runners was over and above his vocational contribution towards the health and welfare of children as a pediatrician at Edendale Hospital.’
CMA Board Member and former Chairperson, Dave Dixon says, ‘Dr John was a remarkable human being who made a valuable contribution to the CMA, specifically in the medical portfolio. He also made an invaluable contribution to the Maritzburg Rugby Union, as a mentor, doctor and council member which spanned in excess of 25 years. I was privileged to have worked with Dr John in these various sporting codes. We will certainly him.’
President of the Midlands Rugby Sub-Union, Piet Herbst says, ‘When I arrived in Pietermaritzburg in 1976, Dr John was already involved with rugby. He was in charge of first aid at all the premier division games at the Woodburn Stadium. Dr John was a Honourary Vice President of the Midlands Rugby Sub-Union, with his involvement spanning nearly three decades. He was a trustee on the KZN Rugby Union Cunningham Kemp Spinal Injury Trust Fund where he assisted with spinal and other rugby injuries which the trust administered. When I became president, I found him to be incredibly proactive and enthusiastic. Whenever someone needed advice or help with first aid, Dr John was the first in line to help. He was a consummate professional as well as a friend. It is really a big loss and we will remember him fondly.’
Comrades Finish Venue Portfolio Convener, Jeff Minnaar says, ‘John was my mentor from my first day as a volunteer at Comrades. John was someone who you could run to for help, advice, support and most of all, loving care. His voice will forever be heard in my mind. R.I.P. my dear friend.’
CMA Board Member, Terence Hoskins says, ‘I met the good Doctor before my time at Comrades and have a scar to show for it. I had the privilege of having him stitch up a cut on my forehead during a rugby game. He was a kind and compassionate man whom we will all remember fondly.’
CMA Elder, Henry Makhathini says, ‘I had served on Dr John’s portfolio for many years. He had amazing organizing abilities. Every morning on Comrades race day, Dr John would have a short meeting with all of us and position us accordingly. Once the Medical Tent started getting busy you will see Dr John inspecting every corner of the Medical Tent to see that everything was in order.’
Henry tells us that Dr John was a humble soul. ‘Even when you met him in town or at the Edendale Hospital, Dr John would recognize you and stop for a chat. He will be sorely missed by many of us.’
CMA Board Member, Peter Proctor says, ‘Dr John Godlonton was a true man of grit, a friend and always someone we could look up to. He was always there when we needed him. His service to the Comrades Marathon and to Comrades runners in general, will go down in the history books. His cheerful ways of handling the most difficult situations will be remembered by many runners. Rest in peace John. You will forever be remembered.’
CMA Elder, Brian Kurz says, ‘Dr John was fun-loving and a keen participant in the social activities of “Easy Riders” residence and pub at Edendale Hospital during the 1970’s, 80’s and beyond; and this led to him taking part in amateur dramatics with song and dance routines in a number of Pig and Whistle Shows. We spent many high-spirited evening rehearsals and shows with him over many years, both on and off the stage; before, during and after his tenure as the Comrades Medical Portfolio Convener.’
Brian adds, ‘John was perhaps most famous throughout the Midlands for his frequent hilarious renditions on stage of an ungainly and very senior ballet dancer complete with pink tutu and flashing luminous imitation “danglers” where he completely “outshone’’ the rest of his young junior male Medical Registrars from Edendale Hospital who made up the rest of his ballet chorus line. One of those chorus line dancers was the then young ballet star registrar, Jeremy Boulter who went on to successfully succeed John as the Comrades Medical Portfolio Convener.’
CMA Green Number Portfolio Convener, Eileen Hall says, ‘I always remembered Dr John as someone who always told jokes and had a story to tell. He was a dear man.’
CMA Elder, Mervyn Williams says, ‘John was always my inspiration, mentor and comforter during my many years on the CMA committees and particularly in my term as Chairman of the EXCO and Board of Trustees. I have so many wonderful memories; the organisation of the medical facilities which often looked like an evacuation station at Dunkirk, negotiations with the SABC for the television rights, provocative contributions to the development of the CMA and so many more. John’s contribution to the Comrades Marathon was not confined to medical only but also included a major role in overall organisation. To the memory of a wonderful man and esteemed colleague.’
Glen Hagemann of Sharks Medical says, ‘Dr John was also a legend at Edendale Hospital where I had the privilege of working with him in the 80’s. He worked there for many years as a leading paediatrician and was a founder of the infamous Dr’s Pub, “Easy Riders”. A man of great integrity with a superb sense of humour. He is going to be greatly missed by the many people whose hearts he touched in a profound way.’
KZNRU CEO Pete Smit says, ‘I don’t hesitate to use the term ‘a great rugby man’ for Dr John. Apart from being a wonderful guy, he provided a valuable and free medical service at Woodburn for many years and helped us with provincial tournaments. He was also a Trustee on our NRU Cunningham Kemp Spinal Injury Trust Fund. We will miss him immensely.’