Alexander Steven Donn FRACS 
Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgeon
8 August 1957 - 24 October 2019

Steven was a much-loved father, grandfather, partner, friend and brother and the family remember him for his wicked sense of humour, his work ethic, organisational skills, and his strength and stoicism.  Outside his professional life, Steven was a keen gardener, guitar player and sportsman. He enjoyed all things active, but his greatest passion was surfing, the beach was his nirvana and he treasured his final years living in Ohope

Alexander Steven Donn, known by his second name throughout his life was born in Devonport, Auckland.  The eldest child of Hamish Donn, an engineer and Shirley Harris, a kindergarten teacher, he had two sisters.  He attended Campbell’s Bay Primary and Murray’s Bay Intermediate schools.  Aged twelve, riding to school on a new bike, Steven was hit by a truck laden with gravel, the wheels passing over him.  Following emergency surgery, a stint on life support in ICU and a long period of hospitalisation he recovered well, but with extensive abdominal scarring which he would later explain was caused by a shark attack. The care that Steven received following his accident is what later inspired him to become a surgeon. Secondary schooling was at Westlake Boys High School where he excelled academically and at sport.  A member of the 1st fifteen, he rowed as part of a Mardi Cup winning crew and was a very keen surfer.

On completion of his school years Steven purchased a Combi van with money saved through a variety of after-school and holiday jobs which included bagging and selling horse manure, work at KFC and the door-to-door selling of velvet paintings. With independent means of transport, he headed off with a group of friends to spend a year surfing at Mount Maunganui.  The following year he moved to Dunedin attending Otago University and gaining entry to Medical School.  During this time he pursued his love of music, singing and playing the guitar as a member of a rock band. His final year of study was spent in Wellington during which he spent three months in San Francisco – attracted by the surfing culture.  There he met a young French fellow-traveller, Genevieve Dupont, and a strong friendship was quickly established, such that Steven’s trip back to New Zealand was by way of Genevieve’s family home in France.  Six months later Steven was joined in Wellington by Genevieve and, through attending night classes, he quickly became fluent in French. 1982 proved memorable with their marriage and Steven completing his MB ChB.

The couple quickly headed overseas again; this time spending a year travelling through Western Europe, in large part prompted by Steven’s interest in language, anthropology and early history.  Although able to converse readily in French and offered employment in a hospital in Lyon, Steven could not obtain medical registration in France.  Registrar positions were obtained in Gloucester and subsequently on Jersey where daughter, Louise, was born in 1986.  Work in research in Lyon followed – along with an increasing interest in luxury cars through the purchase of a Daimler Sovereign.  Returning to New Zealand in 1987 with Genevieve and Louise (and the Daimler Jag), Steven initially obtained work at Middlemore Hospital and their second child, Matthew, was born.  At this time, he began training in Ear, Nose and Throat surgery in Auckland, obtaining his FRACS in 1992.

In January 1993 Steven and the family moved to Rotorua, where he commenced a part-time appointment as ENT surgeon providing care at Rotorua and Taupo Hospitals.  Later the same year the family was completed with the birth of Joshua.  Steven worked as a sole ENT specialist for the Lakes Health Board for a year before being joined by Wilfred Wong-Toi in 1994.  Working in the Lakes area in both public and private practice between 1993 and 2006, Steven was part of a team that provided timely ENT services to those in Rotorua, Taupo, Turangi, Mangakino and at times Kawerau and Murupara.  For many years he was part of a 1-in-2 or 1-in-3 roster. While he appeared initially reserved, behind this image was an interested, caring and witty person.  A surgeon who “liked to operate”, he believed people should be very much responsible for their own health/well-being.   In 2006, seeking a better balance in his lifestyle, he ceased his employment with Lakes DHB to work solely in private practice. He moved to Ohope in 2014 and continued in part- time locum work until ill-health intervened.

After settling into life in Rotorua Steven’s irresistible love of the sea, and the surf in particular, soon resulted in the purchase of a bach overlooking the harbour at Ohope.  This provided the base for many happy weekends and holidays on the beach enjoying surfing, windsurfing, fishing and boating in a dinghy.  He was a keen gardener and DIY exponent and always had a project under way.  In addition, numerous summer holidays were spent in France with Genevieve’s family.  The family also fondly recall their visits to Pacific Islands where Steven undertook voluntary work.  Steven’s love of cars was maintained through ownership of a string of brightly coloured Ford Falcons, a Mazda MX5 and a midnight blue Aston Martin.

After the last of the children had left home Steven and Genevieve parted ways amicably, retaining a good friendship.  Steven found a new partner in Sharon and started the next phase of his life leaving Rotorua to live in Ohope.  Sadly, shortly afterwards Steven was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer requiring surgery and subsequently repeated cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.  During the next five years, despite the discomfort and limitations experienced, he showed incredible strength and stoicism while continuing to undertake locum work, travel and lead an active life. His final days were spent overlooking the ocean with hot pink painted toenails and surrounded by Sharon and the family, supported by the wonderful hospice, oncology and district nurses.

Steven Donn, survived by his sisters and friend Genevieve, is greatly missed by his partner Sharon, and children Louise, Matthew and Joshua and two grandchildren


This obituary was prepared from the eulogy provided by Louise Donn with contributions by Wilfred Wong-Toi FRACS, and Steven’s family.