Paarl Rotary's oldest active member, Dave Overturf, received honorary membership of the club on his 90th birthday, just weeks before his passing. This American-born former fighter pilot has had a remarkable career.


Dave, who hailed from San Diego, California, grew up with a father who as a U.S. Navy officer fought in many of the Pacific

                           Ocean battles against the Japanese until their defeat in August 1945. But the end of WW2 did not bring about the world peace that so many had hoped for. Soon, the Mao-led Chinese became a threat. With the start of the Korean War in 1950, Dave joined the U.S. Marine Corps.


He earned his pilot’s wings, and was sent to Korea to fly against the North Korean communists who had invaded South Korea. After a truce was declared, Dave returned to the U.S. and was assigned to teach cadets how to fly. He remained an instructor for several years, and even helped his younger brother Richard to become proficient in instrument-guided flight in 1954, which enabled Richard to earn his Wings of Gold, just as his older brother had done.


Dave spent several more years flying multi-engine transport aircraft for the Marines, mainly in Asia. This included the Vietnam war during which he flew supplies into the country and ferried the wounded out to hospitals. In the meantime, leaders at Marine HQ in Washington had been keeping their eyes on Dave’s leadership. For his next assignment, they sent him to South Africa as military attaché at the American Embassy, and equipped him for the assignment by sending him to become proficient in Afrikaans. While Dave was in South Africa, he made several daring flights with an Embassy plane to make surveys of several African nations that could be possible future enemies of the U.S.


Dave and his then wife so enjoyed living in South Africa that they decided that they would return to the country in the future on a permanent basis. Prior to that, however, Dave received an assignment to a Marine attack squadron at Danang, Vietnam. During his 13-month assignment there as deputy commander of the squadron, he flew 278 combat missions! This was an unequalled record among Marine pilots.  He also received the Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals during his military career.


When Dave returned to Washington for his next assignment, he was told that the Marine HQ wanted him to attend the National War College in Washington. This meant that the HQ saw him as a good candidate to become a future General Officer. But Dave turned down the assignment. He was 42, had 20 years of faithful service, and he believed that enough was enough. He obviously had proved he was a warrior. And the prospect of retiring in South Africa was too strong to postpone.


Thus, he bought a farm in Wellington. Dave enjoyed this farming venture but was always interested in entrepreneurship and business. He became personnel director at Gilbey’s and then began a career as a training officer for Langeberg agricultural products. Meanwhile he did an MBA in Afrikaans at the University of Stellenbosch and obtained his degree in 1978.


Dave met his third wife, Ria, at that time. He helped raise her two children, Jan Hendrik (50) and Christa (53), as his own children. And he was blessed when Ria bore him his own blood daughter, Misi (40). Misi lives in Paarl, and Christa is in Durbanville. Jan Hendrik and his wife, Madelein, reside in the UK, and have three children, Bea (18), Hugo (16) and Jaco (15).


Dave joined Drakenstein Rotary in 1986, and transferred to Paarl Rotary in 1990 where he was president in 1995-1996. He is also a Paul Harris Fellow.


A long-time physical fitness devotee, he ran and came in first for his age group in many distance road races. He shifted to bicycle racing when his knees started bothering him, but his age group results were equally gratifying. Dave participated in his last Argus Cycle Tour when he was 80 years old. Due to poor health, he lived at the Groenleegte nursing home for the last year of his life.



Dave Overturf shows off his honorary membership certificate received from outgoing club president Eugene Reynders and incoming president Anne Kruger.