February 12, 2019




David B. Hawtof, M.D., died Feb. 5, 2019, at home in Key West. He was born and raised in Waco, Texas on Sept. 5, 1933, the only child of Mildred and Manual Hawtof. David spent his childhood enjoying the outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, earning his Eagle Scout badges while biking, hiking, boating on/around Lake Waco and the Brazos River.

He attended Rice University in Houston, leaving after three years to start medical school at The University of Texas in Galveston in 1954. Upon graduation in 1958, he completed a surgical residency at Indiana University in Indianapolis in 1963, and a plastic surgery residency at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1965.

David joined the Navy, serving for two years as a Lieutenant Commander at the U.S. Naval hospital in Chelsea, Massachusetts. As a plastic surgeon, he treated many soldiers injured in the Vietnam War.

Dave met his first wife, Janice, while in Indiana, and welcomed son Daniel during his surgical residency and daughter Nancy while stationed in Boston.

In 1967, David returned to Detroit to open a private practice in Southfield and was on the staff of Providence, Beaumont, Sinai, Mount Carmel, Grace, Harper, Oakwood, North Detroit Genera, and Detroit General hospitals. At the same time, he started one of only two non-university based plastic surgery residencies in the United States.

David met his last wife, Gwen, over a scrub sink, during her plastic surgery rotation in 1981. They were married in August 1984 after Gwen’s anesthesiology residency. Dave shared with Gwen his love of the outdoors, canoeing the Snake River in the Yukon, hunting caribou in Alaska, camping/fishing in the Rockies and exploring the world.

In 1991, Dave realized a lifelong dream in buying a 1977 37-foot Tartan sailboat. After sailing in the Great Lakes, Gwen and Dave, with their Wheaten terrier, Murphy, set sail through Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, out the St. Lawrence seaway and down the Atlantic coast.

They enjoyed seeing the Eastern Seaboard from a mariner’s perspective and he got a kick when people would mistake him for a “local.”

That sailing adventure ended in Key West, where they spent the winter. Liking the whole Key West scene, they returned home to Michigan that summer, sold their home and moved fulltime to Key West.

Dave loved the Key West summers, as he became an avid diver. He reached out to (or some would say “hounded”) the Fish and Wildlife Research group, wanting to learn more about conch, lobster and fish in the Keys. He volunteered with them for more than 20 years, diving with the researchers, keeping up with them even as they kept getting younger and younger. He was awarded the Volunteer of the Year award in 2006 and was particularly proud of being published in scientific journals of plastic surgery and fisheries.

Retirement was busy and full with diving, fishing, sailing, as well as travel, which took Dave and Gwen from canoeing to the Arctic Ocean, to photographing penguins and humpbacks in the Antarctic. Reaching all the continents, he showed Gwen the world, with the last big trip to Africa being simply amazing.

Dave’s nephews always called him “the most interesting man in the world” until the beer commercial named someone else. (Then they called him the second most interesting man …) Dave had such far-ranging interests, that he never met a boring individual and always found something to talk about with everyone. He was an accomplished artist, surgeon, woodworker, muzzleloader builder, canoeist, camper (“never eat freeze-dried foods!”), outdoorsman, hunter and all-around amazing handyman.

They made several trips to Central America, using their skills to correct cleft lips and cleft palates. It was so rewarding when a mother did not immediately recognize her child when seeing the perfectly repaired face of her child.

David was truly a man for all times and all places, making friends wherever he went, and loving the outdoors, whether on the water, under the water, in the mountains, on a river, or on a horse. He will be sorely missed by his wife and best friend, Gwen, his son, Dan Hawtof (wife Melissa), daughter Nancy Gregoire, grandchildren, Zack Hawtof, Zoe Hawtof, Ethan Gregoire and Rachel Gregoire, extended family of sisters- and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, as well as numerous friends and “acquired” family made over a lifetime of living well.

A service of farewell was held on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m. at B’nai Zion Synagogue in Key West.