Busy Don lives life to full
Known to many as a community stalwart, environmentalist, businessman and avid adventurer — Don Keynes has never been one to squander time.
Don was born in Port Pirie, South Australia, in 1928.
As a child, his family relocated several times following business opportunities for his father, who was an accountant in the metal industry.
But the shifting didn’t deter an ambitious young Don from pursuing his education.
In 1943 he started university in Sydney and later finished in Adelaide.
Don graduated with qualifications in industrial chemistry in 1945 and in the same year picked up work with paint company Dulux, where he remained for more than three decades.
Outside of work commitments, Don had developed a fondness for motorcycles and adventure.
In 1949, he took a solo month-long trip on his motorcycle — one of nine owned by Don in his younger years —along the eastern coast up to Maroochydore.
Two years later he was gearing up for another trip, this time a driving tour of Tasmania, just as he met his future wife, Rosemary.
Knowing Don had been planning the trip for some time, Rosemary let him leave, albeit begrudgingly.
“I waited until he came back because I knew I’d got onto a good thing,” she said.
The couple married in 1953, and later had three children.
Like his father, Don’s career shifted him often.
The young family lived in Adelaide for three years before moving to Victoria, where Don became the project engineer and later production manager of a new Dulux factory in Clayton.
But the most rewarding move within Dulux came in 1967, when the Keynes relocated to a hill-top house with “breathtaking views” in Wellington, New Zealand.
“We had a fabulous time in New Zealand,” Rosemary said.
“It’s a wonderful place to bring up children.
“We went on endless hikes through the mountains, often in the snow, we drove over the whole of the two islands on holidays, and we all fell in love with it.”
In 1969, the family reluctantly relocated to Melbourne, where Don became Dulux’s national computer services manager, which at the time meant dealing with computers that took out entire rooms.
However, they conceded their New Zealand experience had “upended” the family and left them craving more than city life could offer.
It took them seven years, predominantly because work for an industrial chemist is difficult to come by in the country, but the family eventually found their new home.
While on a business trip to WA, Don, with an encouraging nudge from his mother-in-law, purchased a hardware store in Busselton, which at the time had a population of 8500 people.
“It was a beautiful little country town,” Don said.
Complementing their new lifestyle, the family bought 17 acres at Vasse, where they bred calves, sheep and poultry, and had berry and fruit trees, and an organic vegetable garden.
Don ran Mitre 10 for about a decade before selling the store and retiring.
However, rather than settle into a quiet life, Don kept busy by rekindling his passion for community service.
As a young man in Melbourne, Don was the president and national senator for the Junior Chamber of Commerce – an organisation dedicated to self-improvement and community service.
But on retirement, Don really upped the ante.
He contributed to the vibrancy of Vasse, becoming chairman of the Vasse Hall committee and joined efforts to upgrade the hall and tennis court construction, and co-founded the Vasse markets.
Don was also Probus Busselton’s founding vice-president and later president on two occasions; co-founder of Busnet, Busselton’s Seniors Computer Group; the chairman of Busselton Senior Citizens; the volunteer regional director of Landcare and was also heavily involved in the University of the Third Age, Busselton Bowling Club and Busselton Woodturners.
Don’s community commitments once granted him the opportunity to meet the Queen, but a packed-out crowd meant he could not get near the monarch.
He also met Sir Charles Court at the anniversary celebration of the Busselton Senior Citizens Centre, which was opened by the former premier 25 years earlier.
Another passion Don explored was art, though Rosemary joked he would never admit to it.
“He used to do some beautiful painting ... and he’s made he’s made beautiful furniture and lovely (wood) turning,” she said.
“He won’t admit to it, but I have the proof.”
Don also developed a keen interest in the environment.
He was a committee member of Landcare and joined a national study trip to Queensland and Victoria in 1993.
Don also attempted to save the Ludlow Tuart Forest when Cable Sands threatened more than 1700 tuart trees on a 147ha mining claim.
“It was a reserve and the mining companies wanted to tear it up,” he said.
In a letter addressed to a newspaper in 2002, Don wrote: “It is a tiny remnant of a beautiful, unique and irreplaceable forest.”
But much to Don’s disappointment, his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
Even with Don as busy as ever in retirement, he and Rosemary carved out time for travel.
“We wanted to see the world,” Don said.
Their extensive travels took them down the Colorado River aboard an inflatable boat through the Grand Canyon, where they spent two weeks sleeping on ledges.
They also drove through the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Alaska, where they made the daring decision to camp among bears.
The couple visited Iceland, Greenland and the fjords of Norway; they travelled to Macchu Picchu and stayed along the Amazon River; they visited game parks in South Africa; and enjoyed several happy holidays exploring England, Scotland and Wales, among others.
In 2000, amid these travels, Don and Rosemary downsized from the farm to an acre on Country Road.
A decade later, they downsized again to Novacare Lifestyle Village in Busselton.
But typical of the ever-occupied Don, the couple bought a property just metres from the bowling green.
As well his impressive community legacy, Don’s family has grown to include eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with another due in May.
Proudly describing her ever-humble husband, who celebrated his 89th birthday in February, Rosemary said: “He’s always used his time to the greatest advantage that he could.”
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