When Don and I first met, we were both in our twenties and had been in the geophysical side of the petroleum industry for a few years. Don, a native Calgarian and a graduate of St Mary’s High School, started his working life in Amoco’s accounting department. One day, seated at his desk, working on his calculator, he looked around at the large room full of people and calculators, and realized that this was not his chosen future. He resigned and left for Australia, initially picking apples in Tasmania, then moving north for a job on a seismic crew in Queensland, along with assorted snakes and crocodiles. That was his entry to the geophysical business.
He travelled through Southeast Asia on his way back to Canada. When he returned to Calgary, he connected with his high school friend Mary Lou. They were married and had a wonderful life together with Glenn and Jennifer, grandsons and friends.
Don and I were friends and business associates for more than fifty years. We met when he worked for Seismotech, a contractor, and I worked for Angus, a consulting firm organizing spec surveys. It was in the late ‘60s and the Rainbow/Zama discoveries had created a strong market for seismic work. A year or two later, I joined Seismotech and Don and I were working together. We also skied, golfed and hiked in our leisure time together. A few years later we had both moved on but still had a close friendship. Then we reunited, both working for Digitech. I was in Sydney and London, Don in Calgary, and then for almost a year we were together in the Calgary office. I left to start Boyd Exploration and Don left to join his friend and business associate Don Chamberlain at Geo-X. They worked together for over twenty years and, they, along with many talented employees, built Geo-X into a pre-eminent seismic processing company.
Don did everything well and thoroughly. At Geo-X he insisted on learning the C programming language, just so that he could relate to the programmers’ work. He loved his bicycle and he learned to become a bicycle mechanic. When we all started sailing, Don researched the care and maintenance of marine engines and systems.
He also qualified as a ski instructor.
He was a good mentor and teacher and many people who worked with Don went on to make their mark in the industry. As well as being an important executive he was a great supporter of the CSEG and encouraged Geo-X employees to participate in its technical aspects, convention papers, courses and also the Doodlebug Golf Tournament, Ski Sprees and other events.
We have to recognize Don the storyteller. These were hilariously funny, but they were stories, not jokes. Don took quite a few minutes to tell a story. His friends all loved them, and when we went on our ski holidays, often asked to hear them again, and again. No matter that we all knew the punch line, and most of the build-up, it was the telling of the story that counted.
In 1986, a group of geophysical friends, including Don, signed up to sail for several days in the Gulf Islands with an instructor and learn how to handle a large sailboat. We were hooked, took courses, and became qualified to charter on our own. We sailed every spring for over thirty years and christened ourselves The DoodleBuoys. We had as many as six boats, chartering out of Sidney, Vancouver, Friday Harbor, Comox and Powell River. We covered the west coast from Puget Sound to Desolation Sound.
Don was a mountain man all his life, climbing and skiing in his youth, hiking and skiing for many years. For several years after retiring from Geo-X, he worked as a guide and instructor for tourists on organized ski holidays in Banff and Lake Louise. When they had a young family, Don and Mary Lou rented a small cabin in Canmore for ski weekends. Later on, they bought a lot in the town of Canmore and built a home on the river. Their retirement was divided between Canmore and Arizona, with some time spent in their Calgary condo. Don’s last days were spent in Canmore with Mary Lou, Glenn, Jennifer and grandsons.
So, these are some of my memories of my friend of more than fifty years, who was a pillar in our industry and an example to all of us.