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March-April 2012

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In Memoriam: Horst Windisch (1932 – 2011)

Horst Windisch was born on 24 April 1932 in Gibeon, Namibia, and died in Pretoria, South Africa, on 23 August 2011. He had moved to Pretoria with his parents in 1935. Upon leaving school he started serving an apprenticeship as a millwright. Later he studied mechanical engineering, gaining a BSc (engineering) degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. After working in Germany for two years, he returned to Pretoria and was employed in the South African steel industry until his retirement in 1991.

Like many people, he began collecting while still a young boy—typically stamps, coins, shells, and minerals. It was in 1963, however, when on meeting an old friend of Horst's wife, Erika, the discussion turned to minerals. He was invited to become a member of the Pretoria Gem and Mineral Club and went on his first outing in early 1964. Initially, his interest was in collecting and polishing agates. He built his own diamond saw and was actively involved in the lapidary side of the hobby until 1973 when back problems caused by polishing stones led him to greater involvement in mineral collecting—something he had started doing about 1968.

Eventually, minerals were to dominate his hobby for the rest of his life, and part of his collection consists of some two thousand specimens in showcases. He became interested in fluorescent minerals and joined the then-young Fluorescent Mineral Society, based in the United States. He was member number twenty-three, and he was made an honorary member several years ago. Through the years, he built up an extensive collection of worldwide fluorescent minerals.

In 1974 he cofounded the South African Micromount Society (SAMS), becoming its chairman until ill health forced him to relinquish the position in 2003. He retained the role of editor of the SAMS newsletter, Micro News and Views, right up to the time of his death, and his efforts in that field are sorely missed. In 1991 he was inducted into the Micromounters Hall of Fame in Baltimore, Maryland. He began the task of collating the SAMS micro-locality data sheets for South African localities as long ago as 1976, and he was always keen on leading collecting trips. His collection of micromounts runs to more than seven thousand mounted specimens. In 1991 he also founded the International Federation of Micromount Societies and became its president. This organization helps develop micromounting worldwide.

In 1985 he founded another branch of the hobby when he created Sand Collectors International, designed to foster the international collecting and studying of sand samples. Through the years Horst built up a collection of nearly six thousand samples of sand from all over the world. Locally he was always working on some aspect of the hobby, usually at the organizational level. He became chairman of the Pretoria Gem and Mineral Club in 1967, a role he was repeatedly voted back into until 2001. He was elected president of the Federation of Southern African Gem and Mineralogical Societies (FOSAGAMS) on five separate occasions and held numerous offices within the group. For more than thirty years, he was the circulation and advertising manager of the South African Lapidary Magazine. He organized and led extended collecting tours in South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe and was involved in many national and club gem and mineral shows. In 2008 he was elected to the unique role as patron of FOSAGAMS.

In 1976 he was involved in not only the sixth FOSGAMS National Show, but combined it with a six-day International Gem and Mineral Symposium (the first such symposium in South Africa). Last year he was on the committee of the third mineral symposium organized by two local mineral collecting societies.

On an international level he corresponded with more mineral collectors and societies than one would have thought existed. He toured many countries, meeting old friends and making new ones, and I will always have fond memories of Horst and Erika accompanying me to Baltimore and Washington in 2001 for my own induction into the Micromounters Hall of Fame, and of our days spent at the Smithsonian museums.

Few in the world have done more to raise awareness of the hobby of mineral collecting, be it by writing, giving talks, leading collecting trips, founding organizations, or being at the center of club and national federation committees. Many of us in the mineral collecting family worldwide sorely miss him.

Graham Reeks is the chairman of the South African Micromount Society, which he cofounded with Horst Windisch in 1974.

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