Hamilton Donald Walter Black FRCS FRCS(Ed) FRACS
3 July 1920 - 17 June 2002
Hamilton Donald Walter Black (known throughout his life as Donald by his family and Don by his friends and colleagues), the only child of Hamilton Donald Walter Black and Annette Delugar, was born in Gisborne. His father, an architecture student, enlisted in the army during World War I and took up farming upon his release, while Annette, who was born in Paraguay, was a nurse. Don attended Manutuke Primary School and subsequently Gisborne Boys High School as a boarder. A keen sportsman, he enjoyed rugby and competitive swimming.
After completing an intermediate year at Auckland University, Don gained entry to the Otago Medical School. In Dunedin he boarded with family relatives - Ethel and Gervan McMillan - Gervan a general practitioner and Parliamentary Cabinet Minister, Ethel later to become a long-serving Member of Parliament. Don greatly enjoyed his time in Dunedin graduating from Medical School in 1944. He completed his house surgeon years in the Auckland hospitals 1945-46 and then worked in general practice in Denniston on the West Coast while waiting for a passage to England as a ship’s doctor. Working in hospitals in London and Manchester 1948-50 Don obtained his FRCSEd and FRCS. He returned to New Zealand in 1951 working in Dunedin for a year and obtaining his FRACS.
Harbouring a long-standing dream to work in the United States, Don obtained a position as a staff orthopaedic surgeon with Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco working initially in St Luke’s Hospital. He completed his MD (Calif.) and subsequently the American Boards examination. Don provided general orthopaedic skills, including joint replacement surgery as this evolved – he returned to England to work with John Charnley to gain experience in this procedure – and hand surgery. Don married and had four children – but the marriage was subsequently dissolved.
In 1960 Don moved 50 km north of San Francisco to work at Kaiser Vallejo, where he served as head of the department until his retirement in 1984. At Kaiser Vallejo Don met Lorraine, an ICU nurse, and they married in 1972 and subsequently had a daughter, Eleanor. Living in Calistoga, at the top of the Napa Valley and approximately 80 km from Vallejo, Don had a considerable commute to work and having a small plane and pilot’s licence often flew. With a readily likeable personality, Don had a strong socialist leaning and throughout his career worked on a salaried basis. Don’s enjoyment of sport progressively included skiing, horse-riding, hiking, cycling and sailing.
Don, Lorraine and Eleanor regularly returned to Gisborne to visit family and on retirement from practice with Kaiser Permanente, they returned there to live. He undertook some locums during the next two years, welcoming the opportunity to renew acquaintances with former medical school classmates. He became a Medical Advisor for New Zealand Riding for the Disabled. Don and Lorraine travelled extensively, including a five month period back in the UK as Don traced his family history. Don’s active lifestyle was maintained until the last two years of his life when he experienced declining health.
Don is survived and greatly missed by his wife, Lorraine, and daughter, Eleanor (author and journalist).
Lorraine Black very kindly provided much of the information.