A wonderful tribute to the memory of Douw van der Merwe, from those who knew him well:
I remember the first day I met Douw at a DDV office braai. Amongst the staff, I only knew Jaco Jordaan from Varsity. But Douw, beer in the hand, welcomed me to the inner circle around the braai, gave me tongs and told me not to burn the meat. I was employed by DDV about two years later. As I worked with all three partners on various projects, I learnt a lot from the different skill sets.
Douw could sell ice to Eskimos and knew a hell of a lot about many things. I always enjoyed trips with him as anything could happen along the way. We spent a lot of time together at Leopard Creek and I learnt how well he could orientate himself, recognise bird calls and remember plans. We walked through the thick bush and he never got lost, and could pinpoint where we were on the un-built golf course. He always treated me like family and could make any stop for a pie into a family meal. He showed me how confidence in yourself will change how people see you.
We never had that last beer together, which is sad as he would always share a story or insight into our industry with me.
Thanks for your mentorship Mr van der Merwe.
We miss you…
– Johan Barnard
“Although my impressions were from the days of Dayson de Villiers and van der Merwe, they are still as fresh in my mind as they were then. Douw was a kind and tolerant man who added great value to Landscape Architecture in South Africa as a whole. I had the privilege of working with Douw while still a Landscape Architecture student. The time he afforded me was one of consideration and respect usually reserved for qualified personnel. He had great presence, a beaming smile and a wonderful composure at all times, even during the infamous Friday afternoon jaunts at DDV. I also had the privilege to interact with Douws’ family who I know will miss him greatly. Douw may no longer be with us, but the ‘Big Guy’ will always be fondly remembered as a pillar of Landscape Architecture in SA.”
We all know of Douw’s passion for the Landscape Architectural industry… and how he could just make things work.
Very briefly, the philosophy that Douw and I built was one of true sustainability for the golf industry in Africa. He was very passionate about this.
In all the projects that we were involved with, our intention was to make them truly South Africa specific, while others were attempting to bring an American product to the industry. Douw could look back proudly at all those projects and say that they were a success and have longevity. All three pillars of sustainability were as important and thus the projects are, in fact, a real success today.
A concept that we had developed and that Douw championed, after I had left DDV, was a concept called Golf For The People. These were community developments that attempted to give low to medium cost living an environment that was traditionally seen as elitist. The concept was to string ‘green lungs’ through mass housing developments by utilising brownfield sites that could take rehabilitation to the next level. Self-sustainable Sport would fill these rehabilitated spaces and give residents a sense of pride and ownership, essentially a dignified place to live.
We presented these concepts to many Government departments and the idea was on track to become the next big thing. I’m not sure how far Douw had taken this after I left. Perhaps his son could fill you in more. Its been four years since I left, so I’m sure a lot has happened.
– Dino de Abreu, landscape and golf course architect, previous partner of Douw van der Merwe
Douw visited Random Harvest on a regular basis during the latter part of his career, when he showed a great interest in indigenous plant species and ‘doing the right thing’ for the environment. He looked at the needs of wildlife. He was always excited about a new indigenous species in the nursery and its potential for use in landscaping. He was a highly enthusiastic person and easy to talk to. I found him really entertaining…. we had many a good laugh together. I thought his straight talking was a great strength. He didn’t mince his words and I really appreciated that about him.
– Linda De Luca of Random Harvest Nursery – indigenous grower