The First Wife

Aletta Gertruda (Louwtjie) Barnard was the first wife of Dr. Christiaan Barnard. The Couple met while He was still a medical student at the University of Cape Town. Her family had a family farm in South West Africa (now Namibia). They were engaged for two years- and tied the knot on 6 November 1948, becoming Chris Barnard’s wife.

The Couple was first located in Ceres, where Dr. Barnard worked as a general practitioner.  They relocated in 1951 to Cape Town where He worked at the City hospital and later moved to a higher position at Groote Schuur Hospital. Grootte Schuur Hospital is where the first-ever heart transplant would take place in 1967 by Dr Christiaan Barnard.

The Family

The couple had two children, Deirdre and Andre. Deidre was born in 1950 and is a South African champion Water-skier. Andre, born in 1951, passed away in 1984. In her memoir, Heartbreak Louwtjie described their romance as “two small-town people who accidentally fell in love.” She further admits that Dr. Barnard had an Irresistible charm; to which she wasn’t immune. She supported the family by not only making their clothing but also work as a company nurse.  The family often went to Knysna for vacation, which is where they started realizing Deirdre’s incredible water skiing talent. Chris devoted all his spare time to train Deirdre, even purchasing a boat in 1961, which he christened Louwtjie.

Fame however took a toll on their marriage, and they eventually divorced in 1969.  Soon after the Divorce Dr. Barnard married Heiress Barbara Zoellner. Louwtjie was in her forties, and Barbara, age 19, was the same age as Andrè Barnard, the son of Louwtjie and Dr Christiaan Barnard.

Chris and his first wife

The Divorce

The Divorce was very difficult for their children, especially Deidre, who had a very close relationship with her father. Both parties stated in their memoirs that differences in goals and ambition were the main reason for their divorce. Both children lived with their mother after the divorce. They were both very fond of their mother.

The later years

In their later years, the two were said to be great friends who often enjoyed visiting their daughter at her house, which both lived close to. She even said that before Prof. Barnard departed for his vacation in Greece, he shortened pants for her and prepared his favorite dish for him. He sadly passed away while on vacation in Greece. Louwtjie and Chris often had tea together as a family, saying, “We had good times. The past is the past. If you try and cling to that, you’ll sink.”