Tribute to Michael John Kimberley (2 May – 3 January 2020)
Eulogy for Michael John Kimberly by Hans Wolbert at the memorial service on 10 January 2020
Michael John Kimberly was born in Gweru on the 2nd of May 1934, his father worked on the postal service, his grandfather came to this country in 1895 with the pioneer column. His childhood years were spent at Milton Junior School in Bulawayo. The rest of his education was done in South Africa, where he passed his matric.
He graduated at Witwatersrand University in Arts and Law. In 1960 he started practicing Law in Zimbabwe and continued working until his retirement in September 2013. In 1961 he married Rose Lighton and had two sons Christopher and Richard, he was a hard working member of the History Society which he joined when he was in University. He was one of the founding members of the Aloes Cactus and Succulent Society of Zimbabwe in 1969. His acute knowledge in Law helped to legalise the Society. He was not like normal gardeners in that he had a passion for the understanding and preservation of local succulents. A lot of these plants are not really suited for the garden but his love for these plants truly made him a patriot of this country. Many of the existing laws in place to protect these plants owe their existence to Mike Kimberly. His knowledge, in Plants and his social standing, brought in big names of the Succulent Plant World like Larry Leech, Darel Plowes, Alan Percy Lancaster, Susan Carter and many more.
His ambition and drive brought the society from strength to strength. In 1975 he helped organise the First World Aloe Congress. This was a huge undertaking and it put this country on the map. In 1988 he organised the Aloe 88 Congress. He was the editor of 21 volumes of the internationally acclaimed Excelsa Journals plus four Taxanomic series of books. The literature of these books passes well over the minds of the layman and there is serious doubt whether there will be any other volumes made without his drive and input. He was also the editor of the Ingens bulletin the first of which was made in 1989.
I got to meet him and know him a little better about 11 years ago when I joined the Aloe Society. I found him to be a very pleasant person full of witty comments which usually put a smile on my face. He was very generous with his knowledge and always eager to further a person’s understanding in plants. A few plants were named after him including an orchid where he was one of three Mikes mentioned in its name. When we went on trips in the field he would walk around rather disappointed knowing that the soil in that particular area was not conducive to succulents but would liven up tremendously when he saw what he called “Sand Veld” in which we always found those unusual and interesting succulents dwelling there. He had a very strong character and often tried to protect the Club personally which sometimes resulted in a few toes getting stood on.
In 2012 his beloved wife Rose passed away and I personally think that Mike started to slowly fade away from that time onwards. His name will always be remembered at the Aloe Club, the world will remember his name in the Succulent World. The world will be a lesser place without Mike, I wish him well with his journey, a journey which we will all have to start at some stage.
Tribute from David Scott: Chairman, The National Trust of Zimbabwe and on behalf of the NTZ Council and members
I first met Mike in 1985 in his capacity as the Legal Counsel for the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority. We worked extensively together on a project lasting approximately 12 months. Mike was an extremely determined, professional and thorough legal mind who was managing a very difficult project, in addition to his normal demanding position and amongst trying and extremely sensitive circumstances. That situation did not deter him from the project objectives and plan. It was a thorough learning experience from my perspective and an insight into the person he always was!! He introduced me then to Zimbabwe historical and cultural matters as he was heavily involved in the History Society of Zimbabwe, among other community and environmental areas.
Decades later, we met again when I was asked to join the Council of the NTZ where Mike had been on the Council for many many many years!! Mike took time out of his very busy schedule, then as a practising lawyer, to introduce me to the NTZ structure and its history. He kindly handed me documents giving a lot of background to NTZ.
Mike had an incredible memory recalling past matters that affected NTZ over decades. Mike was very supportive when I was elected as Chairman of the Council. We worked closely together on the NTZ Council, until he was no longer able to give of his time and then he suggested I visit him at home to discuss NTZ matters.
Mike was entirely selfless in his commitment to NTZ and all the honorary positions he held over many decades. I was very privileged to have met and worked with Mike, all be it only for a relatively short period of time.
RIP Mike, a dedicated community minded professional.
Tribute by Robin Taylor, Chairman, History Society of Zimbabwe Mashonaland and on behalf of its Members
I am sorry to have to tell you that Michael (Mike) Kimberley passed away on Friday 3rd January. Mike Kimberley joined the then Rhodesiana Society in 1955 while still a student. He served as secretary of the Society for eleven years and in turn held the positions of Mashonaland Branch Chairman and National Chairman. In 1989 he became honorary editor of Heritage and held this position with great distinction and ability until 2013.
Mike was a wonderful and dedicated supporter of our Society and he made a great contribution to the success of the Society.
Tribute by Edone-Anne Logan, The National Trust of Zimbabwe on behalf of Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition and it’s Committee
Cecil John Rhodes, first came to the Nyanga area and fell in love with the rugged, isolated landscape. He instructed MacDonald to purchase up to 100 000 acres (40 000 ha) of farmland. Later this became the Rhodes National Park.
The former homestead of G D Fotheringham on “Fruitfield” was selected by Rhodes as his residence (now Rhodes Hotel) and one of the first buildings he erected was a substantial stone barn and stable.
In 1970 a member of the Executive Committee of the National Trust of Rhodesia, and the Director of the National Archives, visited the barn and stable with a view to leasing it from the owners and preserving the historic site and artefacts.
The process was difficult and involved officials in many ministries. The NTZ was determined however, and eventually, with the persistence of Mike Kimberley and others a lease was signed with National Parks and permission granted to open the renovated buildings to the public. The Trust in the meantime had begun to collect articles of historic value, and the Archives made copies – free of charge – of many historic pictures and documents. This was the birth of the Rhodes Museum, now the Rhodes Nyanga Historical Exhibition – the only museum to be under the jurisdiction of the National Trust of Zimbabwe and the only museum of its kind in the country.
Tribute from close friends Ray and Sybil
Thank you for inviting us to contribute something towards Mike’s past contribution to the NTZ.
What comes to mind is that, in the early eighties, Mike phoned me in Bulawayo enquiring if I knew any of the manufacturers/suppliers of Bathroom suites in Matabeleland. As it happened I personally knew of a manufacturer of Bathroom Suites in Bulawayo and that I could assist. I ordered the new bathroom hand basins and toilets for La Rochelle, Penhalonga, who were building 9 cottage type units on the Courtauld’s NTZ property for guests. I was able to arrange for an empty vehicle travelling to Harare to collect spares and supplies for Bulawayo Power Station, which I was responsible for, to collect and deliver the sanitary ware to Harare, where Mike arranged for an empty vehicle travelling to Mutare, to collect the items from Mutare and drop off the consignment at La Rochelle, thereby saving the NTZ the transport costs.
The other snippet is, when we saw the film ’Legal Eagle’ and then the ’Horse Whisperer’ with Robert Redford, the likeness was so uncanny that Sybil and I bought the DVD of the Horse Whisperer and took it to Harare and presented it to Rose and Mike, and started to call Mike, Robert. He was always referred to as Robert by us in Bulawayo, which he said he felt chuffed to be compared with the famous Film actor and Director.
It was the Kimberley’s, in the early eighties, that recruited us to become members of the NTZ, which influenced us to assist the NTZ wherever we could, which continues to date.
Lin Goncalves – Executive Council Member, The National Trust of Zimbabwe
I first met Mike Kimberley about 15 years ago, in his lawyer’s offices in Throgmorton House having written to him to find out more about the Trust and La Rochelle as I had close family memories of the Courtaulds through my parents and the area.
His dedication and interest were so effective and enthusiastic that I was invited to join the Committee and attended the very next meeting. Mike’s knowledge of the local flora, orchids and aloes/succulents in particular, remained my inspiration.
In Mike’s passing we have lost a great character, and highly knowledgeable authority on his passion of indigenous orchids and aloes.
Rob Burrett – Friend and work colleague – Some memories
It is with great sadness that I have heard of the passing of Mike Kimberley, one of the pillars of many voluntary organisations which have brought delight to many over the years. Mike was a man of diverse interests, dedicated to history and botany, his aloes in particular. He was always much more than an amateur, he was an expert in his own right. Criss-crossing the country in search of interesting plants, Mike and his late wife, Rose, would often go out to recover plants from areas that were to be developed, many of these found haven in his Mount Pleasant property.
I was privileged to know Mike in three of his many roles – the Aloe and Succulent Society; Rhodesiana, now the History Society of Zimbabwe; and the National Trust of Zimbabwe. It was in 1978 that I first met Mike. As a young school boy I was captivated by his historical interests and remember fondly the Rhodesiana Society historical steam-train run from Salisbury [now Harare] to Marandellas [Marondera]. If I recall the Kimberleys wore historical dress. Much later we met again, Mike and/or Rose editing the annual magazine of the History Society – Heritage of Zimbabwe. Under his guidance I was encouraged to write up my many and varied interests in the historical quirks of our country. Mike was always concerned that things should be recorded for prosperity in a published form. He would say that we all lose so much as people die or leave. In this way too, the family was actively involved in Excelsia, the Aloe Society journal. As I write I recall dropping by their home to leave my latest historical manuscript or some plant which I had recovered. We would sit on the veranda chatting about history and plants. My appreciation of aloes probably dates from those times and I am currently surrounded by aloes in my Bulawayo garden. One thing I still look out for is the rumoured WHITE Aloe excelsia from the Lowveld that Mike would often mention, hoping that in my fieldwork I would come across a specimen. Nothing yet Mike, sorry.
In the 1990s I was encouraged to join the NTZ by the late Helen Hyslop, another pillar of our Trust. It was at that time I got to know Mike in a somewhat different role in his efforts to safeguard the vulnerable properties held for all of us in the nation by the Trust. We did not always see eye-to-eye on matters, but all credit to Mike Kimberly and his committee for safeguarding what we have today. It is my sincere hope that the NTZ will see fit to commemorate Mike and Rose Kimberley in some permanent way.
I am sure there are many other sides to Mike and Rose Kimberley that I have not mentioned. I can, but only apologise. Mike and Rose had diverse interests and moved in several different circles. I can only give a personal reflection of where we came together. Zimbabwe, and the many societies which they founded and worked for over many decades, are all the poorer for the passing of this wonderful couple.
Rest in peace Mike and Rose.