The Fluoride Action Network received sad news from New Zealand this week. We learned of the passing of long-time fluoride free campaigner Don Church of Ashburton, New Zealand. Outside of his extensive work on fluoridation, Mr. Church was a retired Charted Accountant, a professional Trustee, a husband, and father.
Some of Mr. Church’s work can be viewed in FAN’s News Archive, including his 2014 open letter and advertisement to residents of Mid-Canterbury calling out and revealing misinformationshared by fluoridation proponents.
While I never had the distinguished pleasure of meeting him, FAN’s former Director and current Science Advisor, Paul Connett did spend time with him on a number of occasions, even staying at his home during trips to speak on fluoridation. Paul shared the following message:
I’m very sad to hear this news. Don was a wonderful man and fluoridation fighter. Mark has written a very moving and insightful review of his fluoride work and his sense of humor. I stayed in his home in Ashburton (and in Christchurch) at least three times and once with my wife Ellen. He and his wife were wonderful hosts. His campaigning and generosity is everything that Mark has described. A great loss to the movement and to his many colleagues and co-workers.
We at FAN second the sentiments shared by Paul above and by Mark Atkin of Fluoride Free New Zealand below, an organization that Mr. Church volunteered with since its formation 20 years ago.
Fluoride Action Network
It is with sadness that we advise of the passing of Don Church of Ashburton, at the age of 84.
Don was a stalwart member of FFNZ from its inception (as FANNZ) in 2003.
I found him always generous in all ways, with his time and sage advice, as well as with donations to FFNZ. He was always a gentleman – calm and polite in the face of everything. And always a sense of humour. I recall he used to refer to the comments by Dr Justin Wall, Chair of the Maori Oral Health Group, as “off the Wall” comments when responding to Justin’s letters in “letters to the editor”.
Don successfully fought to get fluoridation out of Ashburton in the early 2000s, and then to keep it out a few years later when the DHB tried it on again. I understand he had a bit of a team behind him, though it seemed to me it was primarily his tireless efforts that led to success, as it was with the late Imelda Hitchcock in Timaru. Yet he never tired of helping with other campaigns, even as far away as Whangarei.
It was during our Whangarei campaign that Don made a quip I will never forget. One of the others had said of the fluoride-pushers “You know, I really wonder if they even have a soul”. Don instantly replied “everyone has a soul. But they have different grades. Some are graded “R”. They are known as “R-souls”.” (Don had a deep spiritual understanding as well).
I am sure I speak for all those who knew him when I say I have always held Don in the highest admiration and respect.
Mark Atkin on behalf of
Fluoride Free New Zealand