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SMITH, Donald A.


August 29, 1930 – November 13, 2020

Dad died peacefully at his family home near Stittsville, Ontario, at age 90.  He was the son of Alan and Daphne Smith of Toronto.  Predeceased by his wife Lorraine (2007) and granddaughter  Gillian (2017) and his beloved canine companion, Goldie (2020), he is survived by his five children (Peter, Carol, Suzanne, Janet, Paul), and their families, including ten grandchildren as well as his younger sister (Ann Daw) and her family.

Dad had a lifelong relationship with nature and conservation.   In his youth he searched for owl nests, brought home baby raccoons, and lied about his age so he could join the Toronto Intermediate Naturalists with likeminded chums. His habit of keeping detailed notes and taking photographs began early, and he was never without his pen and notepad, binoculars or cameras through the years.

 As a young man, Dad particularly enjoyed field work at the Algonquin Wildlife Research Station in Ontario (1948), working on Southampton Island in the Arctic,  and working as BC’s first Park Interpretation Specialist at E.C. Manning Park (1957).

 Dad received numerous academic awards and scholarships through the years.  He completed three advanced degrees in Zoology at the University of Toronto, including his PhD in 1957. That Fall he joined the faculty of Carleton University in Ottawa where he was a beloved professor in the Biology department as well as the Curator of the Museum of Zoology until his retirement in 1995. His main area of expertise was small mammals.   Sabbatical trips to teach and conduct research included living and working in East Africa, Venezuela, Trinidad and Australia.

Through his life, Dad’s passion and action involved the natural world and preserving natural areas.  In 1962 he worked to save the Mer Bleue Wetland in Ottawa: almost 50 years later he was presented with a conservation award for this success.  More recently, land now known as the Smith Forest was gifted to the Haliburton Land Trust for future generations to enjoy.  He was a member of the Haliburton and Kawartha Field Naturalists clubs and supported numerous conservation causes. He worked on the Breeding Bird Atlas of Ontario and did field work into his 80’s on plant identification for an upcoming publication.  Dad loved nothing better than teaching others about nature, and he gave many talks to schools, scout groups and naturalist clubs, always with specimens and stories, and he led countless hikes and bird walks

 Dad’s personal interests included natural history, birding, photography, travel, theatre, books (his nature and field guide collection is vast), watching CFL football and NHL Senators games, shopping at the Farmer’s Market, eating hot and sour soup, and drinking a chilled rum and coke.

Dad was kind, wise, funny, thoughtful, precise, and dedicated to the people and things he loved.  His legacy will live on in the lessons and teachings about nature he so freely shared with all lucky enough to have known him. In his final weeks, he was able to enjoy looking out at his bird feeders and forest property. He was taken to visit the beloved Haliburton cottage in his last months.  Dad kept up with his family by phone, and was engaged and telling stories to the end.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Haliburton Land Trust (PO Box 1478 Haliburton, ON K0M 1S0), Nature Canada (Suite 300, 240 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 1X4) or Birds Canada . Immediate cremation will be followed by a celebration of life in Haliburton at a later date.


20 responses to “SMITH, Donald A.”

  1. Melanie Blodgett says:

    We will miss seeing Don at the cottage. He was always so friendly, and so entertaining to listen to. He had wonderful stories, and was always happy to share information when we had nature questions.
    The birds, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons will also miss him greatly. No one else we know keeps enormous containers of various seeds in the quantity Don did, and he always doled it out generously! Every person and every animal was Don’s friend. We feel privileged to have known him.
    Condolences from Melanie, David, Kait and Gord Blodgett, and my mum Melda Marson.

  2. Eric Davis says:

    It is with deep sadness that I say goodbye to this amazing man. He certainly led a rich life and was a fountain of information for our membership. I remember fondly how he enjoyed the desserts at our AGM’s. At the last meeting he attended, I got to sit with him and have a nice conversation.
    He will be missed.

  3. Ginette legault says:

    My sinceres condoleances my friend Suzanne and my deepest sympathies goes to you and all your family . What a memorable elogy you wrote about your dad he was such a great man, naturalist and great dad. Now i know where you are taking after about nature and animals .
    He is now watching over you and your family from above and is your special angel now.

  4. Anne G Smith says:

    we will surely miss our luncheons with your Dad and Goldie in Haliburton

  5. Penny Barnes says:

    Sincere condolences to your whole family. Your dad sounds like an incredible person all-round; I am sure that he will be very much missed. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Suzanne: You did so much for your dad – I know that he will forever be smiling and watching over you. XOXO

  6. Pegi Flood & Brian Robinson says:

    Suzanne, our heartfelt sympathy for the loss of your dear dad. He certainly was an adventurous man with many accomplishments. I know you will miss him dearly. Hugs, Pegi and Brian.

  7. Leslie Dyment says:

    As a member of the Kawartha Field Naturalists I was lucky to have the opporunity to spend time listening to Don’s stories on nature. The world needs more people like him.

  8. Pauline Plooard says:

    My deepest sympathy to the family. There is and never will be a hike or nature walk when I don’t think of Don. He always shared his knowledge with us when we were on outings together, patiently, and transferred his love of all things outdoors to us. I have so many good memories of him enriching my life. Stay safe all, Pauline

  9. Chris Beveridge says:

    What an amazing life and legacy. I know his daughter, Carol, and can see now where her passion for the outdoors, nature, wildlife and photography comes from. A life well lived.

  10. Sheila Ziman says:

    My condolences to the entire family. Don was such a wonderful mentor to the members of the Haliburton Highlands Field Naturalists. I always looked forward to the last item on the agenda which was “Nature Notes”. Don would regale us with stories of his nature observations and would listen patiently as we told ours. I learned so much from him.
    And his legacy will also endure through “Smith Forest”, the property he donated to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust which is now protected in perpetuity. My thoughts are with you.
    Virtual hugs,

  11. Vic Orr says:

    Suzanne, you have described your dad so well.
    I always enjoyed chatting with he and Lorraine when they came to our meetings. When visiting us at the KFN he would always name the bird species that were sighted in Haliburton during our ‘nature notes’ session.
    Ruth and I attended his 90th birthday celebration at his Haliburton place a few months ago. He looked dapper in. his red attire!
    Don was a very knowledgeable Naturalist but a modest person.
    We will miss him but will always remember him.

  12. Don Kerr says:

    Having know Don for the 12 years I was in the Naturalist Club with him, he was a great inspiration to me, & I will always think of him when I pass the moss patch on my property which he laid down on to enjoy. An amazing man who was like an encyclopedia of knowledge when it came to all nature. When he spoke it was with methodical preciseness that everyone listened to. I will always miss him.

  13. Pamela Higgs says:

    I was a student of Dr. Smith’s at Carleton University from 1972 to 1978. His patience in the teaching of studying, logging and writing of all creatures great and small was second to none. His most popular words (to me) when in “the museum” were “isn’t biology wonderful”. Yes, Dr. Smith, it is.

  14. Ellen Lodge says:

    Don was always willing to share his stories of his travels and many experiences he had a full and remarkable life. He was kind and generous with a great love for nature, his family and friends. He will be greatly missed by all who were fortunate enough to have known him

  15. Sheryl & Dean Main says:

    Our condolences to my long-time friend, Carol (Smith) Tallman & her family.

    Dr. Smith was a terrific person. Very interesting & entertaining. We fondly remember our trip to the family cottage in Haliburton several years ago. Dr. Smith gave us an impromptu lecture in the local flora & fauna complete with specimens. We enjoyed it very much. He was the ultimate teacher!

  16. Evelyn Parsons says:

    I cannot believe what a wonderful person your Dad was…not to mention your Mom. What an incredible set of “Dr.s”. I feel very privileged that Harry and I became a part of your family in so many different ways. I won’t bore people with the details….you know what they are.
    Love to you and your Dad always…Love, Evelyn

  17. Diane Haggert says:

    I loved Don. I loved listening to his talks/tales at our Haliburton Field Naturalists meeting. Was disappointed if he did not happen to be at a meeting. When he came to our KFN meetings in Fenelon via his chauffeur, I was pleased to talk to him. One of the last times we spoke was so special and I will put that story in the requested memories for KFN. I am sad. Hugs Don, from Diane

  18. Sandra Stephenson says:

    condolences to all of you. we suffered the same loss two years ago when Don’s colleague, Bruce Stephenson died. Best wishes for carrying on.

  19. Asoka Yapa says:

    Dr. Smith was one of my biology professors when I was studying at Carleton University in the early 1970s. He was such a kind person, soft spoken, gentle and gentlemanly, with always time for his students. Prof. Smith had a longtime tech of Dutch descent, whose name I sadly do not recall, who was also a great guy and these two individuals were a joy to be with. Prof. Smith kindly invited us students to his house for Christmas once and I remember meeting his wife Lorraine. Was she not also a PhD in biology and a researcher? Maybe I am mistaken.

    I am of Sri Lankan descent and it is an island that is not well explored biologically, even today, especially with respect to small mammals. I tried to arrange for Prof. Smith to do research in the tropical island during a sabbatical and he was very interested — but the project sadly fell through owing to red tape at the Sri Lankan end. Too bad, had Dr. Smith been able to do research, the field would have advanced considerably in my opinion. Eventually, I took Prof. Brock Fenton, another of my profs at Carleton, to join a ROM expedition in 2015 to do a bat survey of Sri Lanka.

    I wrote a book on the mammals of Sri Lanka that was published in 2013 and in it I wrote how much teachers like Profs Smith, Fenton, and Harry Howden had inspired me. More recently, I was wondering what had happened to people like Dr. Smith. I knew that Prof. Howden had passed away and I had made contact with Dr. Fenton but I drew a blank with Don Smith. I even wrote to a prof of biology at Carleton but no one seemed to have any idea. Ah, how short is institutional memory!

    It was Prof. Fenton who sent the AWRS Newsletter with the notice of Prof. Smith’s passing. He had lost touch with Don Smith after leaving Carleton for York and then Western long years ago. I am really sorry that I could not speak to Prof. Smith again. He may have remembered me. But I would have greatly enjoyed being in the company of this great man again! I wonder if Carlton U has any plans of memorializing a beloved teacher. I would love to see the collection of the Biology Dept. named after this dedicated longtime Curator.

  20. Bert van Ingen says:

    I’m one of D.A.’s former biology students from Carleton U (1974-1978). He was very special to me both personally and professionally. I had lacklustre marks all through school until I discovered Dr. Smith’s Carleton U Museum of Zoology and enrolled in his Zoology, Taxonomy and Mammalogy courses. He cheerfully accepted me to do an Honours thesis on the basis of enthusiasm rather than academic standing. It was Harry Parsons that reverently came to refer to D.A as ‘the Boss’ because he was the antithesis of an authority figure and treated everyone as an equal.
    I was on a CUMZ field trip to Craigmont Mine (near Barry’s Bay, Ontario) in 1978 when a Little Brown Bat showed up that had been banded, with a numbered aluminum tag, in 1947. This was one of the very first ever bats in the world to have been banded. My role at that time was to assess tooth wear as an indicator of age and that record-setting 31 years-ago-banded bat still featured ‘sharp’ (instead of ‘very sharp’) teeth! There were also banded bats there with ‘dull’ teeth and a few ‘gummers’ (teeth worn flat with the gums). How old were they? It’s unfortunate that bat banding (awakening hibernating bat colonies in order to do this) was being discouraged by the scientific community by the late 1970s and that the mine shaft was ultimately sealed off by the mid 1980s. Very few scientists undertake long term studies and this was but one of Dr. Smith’s many lifelong projects.
    It was a real treasure for me to have been taken under Don’s wing and decades later be able to refer to him as a good friend and a wonderful man.

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