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News > Passing of friends > Zonk Stobart (1952F) passes away

Zonk Stobart (1952F) passes away

No one knows why David was called 'Zonk' although it was passed on to him by his older brother, Christopher (1950F) who never said where it came from either!


Class of 1952

A funeral for John David (Jonk) Stobart (1952F) was held in Winchester last week.  A few ODs were there to meet his family and have tea with them after the service.  They were Jeremy Ouvry (1953F) and Nicky Bicket (1973F). 

David's son Michael gave the obituary which we were asked to post in full.  It is really moving and is a wonderful tribute to his dad.

17th October 1935 – 29th May 2023
Founders, 1952

Hello everyone, and good afternoon.  On behalf of Mum, Margie, Kate and myself, thank you all so much for joining us today, for this Service of Thanksgiving for the life of our late Dad and husband.

John David Stobart – ‘David’ to most who knew him a while, ‘My Darling’ to his wife, ‘Dad’ to his lucky quartet of children, ‘Zonk’ (no one knows why although it was passed on to him by his older brother, Christopher (1950F) who never said where it came from either!) to his College friends, ‘John’ to officials who, fair-enough, assumed to address him by his first name, and more recently ‘Johnny’, to one of the more self-assured nursing team at Winchester hospital!

There are so many words and ways to describe him – I’ll try to summarize.

Devoted Husband, loving father and dedicated family man.  Farmer, research scientist, deep and critical thinker, keen fisherman, BBQ-er extraordinaire.  Quiet (unless he was singing in church or supporting his children from the sideline at a rugby match or swimming gala) – he didn’t say a lot, but he thought deeply about most things and was a patient teacher.  He loved the African bush and the learning opportunities it presented, through study of the trees, the geography, the animals, birds and fishes.  A community man and servant leader – he would give up, or at least share, anything he had, for his neighbour.  He was also humble and unassuming, and never spoke of his many significant achievements.  He was a true gentleman.

He loved his God– deeply and passionately – almost obsessively in his latter years, and he had a faith which he practised and served devoutly.  He loved working in his local church or chapel, and he also deeply appreciated his years volunteering at the Winchester Cathedral, greeting visitors at the front door, if not just for being in such a magnificent place of worship.

The only thing he loved more was his wife – our Mum, and they have been totally devoted to each other for over 63 years, since their marriage in 1960.  Much longer than that in fact, as they met in their early teen years and were childhood sweethearts from the start.  She was the light that illuminated his world and they relied on each other in equal share for company and love – in sickness and in health.

David was born in Southern Rhodesia in 1935.  He grew up on the family farm, Atlanta, and was schooled at Ruzawi Preparatory School in Rhodesia and Bishops Diocesan College in Cape Town.  He obtained a BSc in Animal Science from Natal University in Pietermaritzburg, then travelled to the USA where he completed a MSc degree in Animal Physiology and Nutrition from the University of Illinois.  After a brief period of travel through the US and Europe, he returned to Africa and started managing Atlanta with his father, ultimately turning it into a highly efficient and productive mixed cropping, seed- and livestock production unit, right up until the cessation of farming operations there in 2002.

He held multiple leadership roles in agriculture in Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe, including:

Agricultural representative on the University of Zimbabwe Council

Vice-chairman of the Agricultural Research Council

Chair of the Crop Science Association and of the Commercial Oilseeds Producers Association for 12 years.  Similarly, he sat on the Council of the Commercial Farmers Union for 12 years and was a founder and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Agricultural Research Trust farm, as well as Director of multiple Companies, all the while running Atlanta’s daily operations.

All the above culminated in him being awarded a Member of the Legion Merit of Zimbabwe Rhodesia (civilian class) in 1981, for his services to Agriculture

He was also Chairman of the Ruzawi Prep School Old Boys Association for many years, he was a Police Reserve Long Service Medal recipient, Chairman of our local Farmers Association and church warden of our local church, St Andrews, in Arcturus, for a long, long time.

So when people say that Dad was a pillar of the community, he actually represented multiple pillars of our community, not just one.  It’s hard to imagine how many people have benefitted and learned from his time, experience and expertise over the years across all these disciplines. 

With Mum, he fathered 4 amazing children.  We all graduated University, with a Masters degree in Biochemistry, a Rhodes Scholar with an MPhil in Management Studies, a Masters degree in Fisheries Science and a degree in Computer Studies and Information Technology.  His encouragement and support of us was in no small part why and how we have achieved what we have over the years, enjoyed successful careers and have our own wonderful families.  It was devastating for him, as it was for the whole family, when his son and our brother Andy was taken from us 26 years ago by cancer, but it did represent the start of Dad’s deeply spiritual journey to his current faith.

Dad’s last few years have not been easy, as he negotiated multiple health issues, but they have been characterized by his resilience, his quiet stoicism and strong faith, his will to live to be with Mum for as long as possible, and his sheer stubborn-ness to, at times, defy medical odds to survive.

Dad – we accept that it was your time.  You had caught your limit and your creel was full – it was time to submit your catch return to the warden and go home to put your feet up.  As told to us by Richard Johnson, Dad’s great friend and councillor, who did more to develop and guide his spiritual journey than anyone else, in the words of Jesus, in the Gospel of St Matthew, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master”.

You leave a legacy of love, pride in our families, resilience, moral fortitude and performance excellence which is inspirational to us.  We do not begrudge your passing to the ultimate fishery, where the fish are always biting, and even the one that gets away is truly as big as you say it was!  Through the tears, we will always smile when we remember you.

Tight lines Dad.  Go to God, and rest in peace.

Michael Stobart (son)

6th June 2023

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