Vale Gordon Howitt

It is with great sadness that I advise members of the passing on QRA Life Member, Gordon Howitt, at age 88. That sadness however is tinged with some pride from my belief that for many years I considered Gordon a good friend.

His contribution to rogaining in Queensland was immense. Firstly he was a fierce and very strong competitor with at least one WRC podium position to his name. He stated rogaining before the sport commenced in Queensland and became a mainstay of our sport as an organiser and map maker after rogaining commenced here in 1991. He was joint course setter (along with the late Eric Andrews) for the first ARC held in Queensland (1998) as well as the organiser of a number of traditional and MTB rogaines through the 1990s and 2000s. Almost every cyclegaine ever held in the Glasshouse Mountains area used a map prepared originally by Gordon.

Gordon and his wife Cath were awarded Life Membership of QRA in 2007 in recognition of their commitment and contribution to rogaining in Queensland.

At a personal level Gordon as 25 years older than me, well 25 years less 20 days so close enough! When I first started orienteering in my early 30s if I came upon Gordon in the bush I really struggled to pass him such was his speed and strength. I thought at the time that that’s how I wanted to be at that age, not knowing of course that by that age I would not be able to run at any speed!

When I competed in my first ever rogaine, a 12-hour in the Glasshouse Mountains on 7th November 1992, I saw Gordon and his partner Dave Erbacher as the ones we (myself and Rod Gary) needed to beat to win. They did too and Dave offered a side bet of a bottle of good red. We just managed to get that bottle of red but for me it took a pair of totally trashed feet and 52 km straight line (about the same as I managed in 24 hours in the recent WRC in the Pyrenees!)

In 2014, a few months short of his 84th birthday, Gordon and two of his four daughters trekked into Everest Base Camp and back out again. Again I thought, that’s how I want to be at that age!

A stinging criticism by Gordon, not to me but accidently overheard by me, of the first ever orienteering courses I set made me determined to become a competent course setter, particularly for non-elite competitors. I think I managed that over the years.

After Cath and Gordon moved to Peachester in the 1990s I spent quite a bit of time with him planning events and courses and talking navigation sports in general. I learnt a lot of from Gordon.

He was a quirky character as anyone who had travelled or roomed with him as I have will attest. Also, like pretty much every Kiwi born person I’ve ever met, he could never get to a point of not supporting the All Blacks.

Gordon never sought accolades for his contribution it was just what he did. Indeed about 15 years ago at the urging of some of his daughters I coordinated the preparation of a submission to the OAM Committee seeking a formal civil recognition of Gordon’s huge contribution to navigation sports in SEQ. Disappointingly nothing came of it which is unfortunate as I know of people far less worthy who have been so recognised.

Let me close with a thanks to Gordon (and Cath who survives him) for their massive contribution to rogaining and QRA and the warm friendship provided to me during those years we lived close to one another.

Richard Robinson

Sunshine Orienteers Facebook post, with funeral information:

Leave a Reply