Last Update: 16/01/2014 23:53
2 January 1917-18 July 2010
Son of a pastoralist, Donald Wallace Fleming ("Don" or sometimes
"Walt" to his friends) was born in Carnarvon 2 January 1917. He
attended the local primary School in Carnarvon then Guildford
Grammar School in Perth, completing his schooling in 1934.
In those days, to do medicine it was necessary to go interstate,
so Don started his medical career in Victoria where he completed
his MBBS at the University of Melbourne in 1940 winning the
Jamieson prize for clinical medicine.
He returned to Perth and in 1941 became a JRMO then Surgical
Registrar at Royal Perth Hospital.
He married Betty Cook (then a nurse at RPH) on 6 November 1943
at St Mary's Church in Colin St West Perth, over the road from
where he would later have consulting rooms for 35 years.
He joined the AIF in 1943 and with 105 Light Field Ambulance was
posted to what was Dutch New Guinea (Merauke) before being
demobilized in 1944.
After returning to RPH he was Assistant (and on occasion Acting)
Superintendant from July 1945 to March 1947. It this position he
"at all times displayed the utmost conscientiousness and devotion
to his duty, with the capacity to meet any situation as it arose.
He has enjoyed the confidence and respect of his professional
colleagues both of the honorary and paid staffs." The sentiments
expressed in this reference echo through the rest of his
He trained at the Robert Jones Orthopaedic Hospital Oswestry in
Wales and Royal Masonic and All Saints Hospital in London between
1947 and 1949. During this period he worked with many eminent
surgeons including Sir Reginald Watson and Terence Millin. These
were very famous surgeons at the time. He obtained his FRCS(Eng) in
In 1950 he returned to the Royal Perth Hospital and was
appointed to the surgical staff, serving there for the next 32
years as surgeon, senior surgeon and as board member from 1969 to
1981. He was also Chairman of the Department of General Surgery for
a term of three years.
He also joined the staff at Princes Margaret Hospital from 1951
to 1960 and served on the hospital board. Then Saint John of God
Hospital Subiaco, again serving on the hospital board for many
Don had a great sense of humour and was popular with both his
patients and staff. However, he demanded very high standards and
was quick to respond if he perceived any laxity!
In 1965 he re-established his links with the Army becoming a
Lieutenant Colonel and consultant surgeon to the Western Command.
He worked at the Repatriation General Hospital until his retirement
in 1982. After retiring from surgery he continued doing medical
work at the Army for another 5 years.
Don made a major contribution to the Royal Australasian College
of Surgeons including serving as Council member from 1969 for 12
During this hectic period of his life he still found time to be
the Honorary Medical Officer for the West Perth Football Club in
the WAFL for 23 years and was made a Life Member on his retirement.
He was a passionate supporter of West Perth and equally of Carlton
in the (then) VFL.
Through his long and productive career Don contributed to this
training and development of generations of students and graduate
doctors, the success of a number of major institutions and of
course the health of thousands of grateful patients.
Don was an extremely accomplished surgeon. I first met Don
briefly in 1957 when I arrived to work at the RPH from the Royal
Hobart Hospital, but our friendship really began when I returned
from England in 1960, joining the RPH Surgical unit in 1964. The
senior surgeons were Don Fleming, Neville Way and Philip Goatcher.
When I commenced private practice in 1964 Don was extremely
generous and let me use his rooms West Perth until I became
Don will never be forgotten. He shares the surgical history of
contemporary surgery in WA, and especially at the Royal Perth
Hospital, with other eminent surgeons of his time including Jim
Ainsley, Albert Gild, Norman Robinson, Bertram Nairn, Hector
Stewart, Philip Goatcher and Neville Way.
After his retirement Don became an enthusiastic grower of
cymbidium orchids. When they eventually moved to Dalkeith, the
orchid house filled the entire back yard.
Becoming increasing frail, Don moved into a hostel in 2008 and
died there on 18 July 2010.
He leaves behind Betty, his wife of 67 years, a son and a
daughter, 5 grand children and 3 great grand children.
From a eulogy presented by Marx Wald FRACS; edited by James
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