Someone I Once Met: Dootch

Someone once said that if you wanted to walk from campus into town and you’re in a hurry, don’t go with Dootch. Our university was one of the smallest in the country, and although it’s done a lot of growing since I left in 2010 it still only boasts a couple thousand students. It was as if Dootch knew them all and they all knew him. Walking into town with him meant stopping for a chat with various people as he inquired sincerely about how they were- not forgetting the inquisition about the health of their family and pets too.

Of course Dootch isn’t an actual name that exists in any baby-name book. You see, Dean du Chenne was a huge fan of South African rugby player Butch James. By this way, Dean became fondly known as Dootch. And sometime in August 2010, there Butch was, a national sporting celebrity, at Dootch’s wake. Honouring with us the spectacular person that Dean was. What this would have meant to Dootch is immeasurable. His idol and namesake came, laughed, hugged, teared up and posed next to a photo of our recently lost friend.


How many people do you know that mentioned, at the age of 20, what song they’d like to have played at their funeral? Probably not many. And his choice of ‘Forever Young’ is even more chilling. Such a personality, so much larger than this life, could only have been taken away from here by something as unstoppable as lightning. Everything about this situation, when I think about it today, is incredible.

There are a close-knit group of people who were lucky to call Dootch their best friend. These people knew all too well the kind of individual he was- the class clown and boy’s boy who was never too poor to spend money on his friends- or anyone for that matter. Even if he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. Certain figures, with certain organisational skills, who knew him so well, knew that his life couldn’t just end there. And so the Dootch Fund was born.

Only in it’s second year, the fund has already raised enough money to sponsor it’s first post-graduate student. It wasn’t easy to choose who’s life to change, but in 2014, the Dootch Fund will send it’s first student back to university to further his career. And all because once a year, in September, Dean’s ever growing number of friends and family gather in the Drakensberg and raise funds while wrecking havoc.

I’m glad for the few years I was able to spend getting to know him at Rhodes University and on various trips. One that stands our is our 4 day hike through the Transkei where he wore no underwear and brought no change of clothes. Cheers to Dootch, to his family who attend all the events and to his dedicated friends who have not let a great life end where it could have.



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