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A True Gentleman

John Walker A True GentlemanIt is with deep sadness that we learnt of the news earlier this week that a much loved and well-respected former Makers employee had passed away suddenly at Weston Park hospital on Sunday the 22nd January in the mid afternoon after losing his battle with Cancer.

John Klaus Walker more affectionately known as “Johnnie Walker” was an absolute gentleman and his tenure at Makers that spanned some 9 years left his imprint and legacy through the many Makers Apprentices that he helped through their courses and kept them on the straight and narrow.

Armed with a HND in Building from Sheffield Polytechnic John entered the world of work starting out as a Site Engineer at Lummus Engineering in Middlesborough. John moved up the contracting ranks joining Hydra Contracts as a Contracts Manager in 1989.

Johns move into the concrete repair and refurbishment industry saw him work for Stonecare and George Law both renown repair companies but sadly no longer operating. Company closure of George Law saw him employed in his native Sheffield by Sovereign Stainless Steel Fabrications, after a bout of company closures and a change of direction and industry this saw him through his tenancy of 15 years at Sovereign holding many posts including those of QS and Contracts Manager.

John Walker and the ApprenticesJohn left Sovereign in 2011 and joined Makers in 2012 where he was introduced to the Business by Darren Wootton, Makers Operations Director. John and Darren went way back when Darren back then was working as a site manger under John’s direction at Hydra. John joined us in the twilight of his working career or so we thought. Aged 61, most had encouraged him to retire but Johns looks did not resemble either his age or vitality.

“John had obviously had an easy paper round! Full head of hair, slim build, bags of enthusiasm and an agile brain he defied his age so employing John was never a concern”.

Stuart Rooker FD

John with an ApprenticeJohn initially joined to shore up Makers Operation team with all his experience it was a natural choice but it soon became apparent that he had a number of skills and attributes that were more valuable and necessary for our Apprentice Scheme. John was reluctant at first but then soon became embroiled and a father figure to all those that have attended and passed through the scheme.

John was that comforting arm taking those of very minor education and getting them to pass HNC’s and Degree courses, without his input, advice, encouragement and support many would have simply given up but John’s determination to make them succeed is testament to his nurturing and kindly nature.

John was a true Yorkshireman, fond of a joke but even fonder of a pound! We are not saying John was frugal but turning your engine off downhill to save fuel well… He was a big Sheffield Wednesday fan but he talked so much about United we thought he was a United fan so when we presented him with a Sheffield United emblem during a forklift dedication presentation, he saw the funny side. John had a way of smoothing the waters and indeed became a quiz master host on Friday lunchtimes. John was part of a quizzing team that attended local pubs in Yorkshire trying to win general knowledge quizzes but would then act as the quiz master and re-run them in the Office Canteen. Its popularity soon took off and John soon found that his usual team of four battled their score against a hoard of 10-12 shouting out answers. Diplomacy and the ability to make the scores close John would delight in our struggle but then be amazed that someone would get a correct answer for an obscure question that his team had failed to get right or even answer. Lunchtimes have never been the same again since his retirement.

John and the forklift named after him at retirementJohn had worked all his life and despite us thinking he would retire at the age of 65 it wasn’t until his 70th birthday that he decided to hang up his boots. After a tenure of 9 years. Johns’ decision was brought about during covid whereby late in 2020 he was taken ill, had a heart attack but also discovered that he had prostate cancer.

In true John fashion he downplayed his condition being very none plus that his condition was treatable, not an issue and happy to work on, not to worry. After agreeing to reduce his hours and to take a steadier approach John retired from the business but was later reunited with friends and colleagues where a forklift dedication took place in his honour.

John and Carol at retirement celebrationsAttended by Staff, and colleagues who travelled across the country to be there and celebrate together with his wife of 46 years Carol, John was presented with the final Ausa CE11 to come off the production line in Barcelona.

“It was a fabulous day, very special and very deserved, john was a true gent and it was a really fitting gesture but we were even more impressed that he rocked up in an all blacked out Range Rover.. Top Man!!”.

John Linskey Site Manager

John had a real soft spot for the people in Makers, from the apprentices, colleagues and the guys on site. Even after his retirement he would drive down from Sheffield to have a Christmas drink and celebrate the start of the holidays with us. We were so lucky that John came to see us on our final day at work on December 16. It was to be John’s last outing and we were fortunate to have been able to share a beer or two and catch up. To those there, there was not the slightest inkling that John was so poorly. Outwardly the smile was there, the laughter, the stories, a little tired maybe but still John.

John having Christmas drinks with Makers TeamWhen John announced he had prostate cancer we all assumed it was a relatively new condition and then with treatment would be able to enjoy his retirement with Carol. He had land… he told us and he was going to develop it taking up brick laying courses in his final year with us. A running joke “Landed Gentry”!!

“John was truly a much loved person, the staff have been shocked and devastated by the news, many tears have been shed he was truly a gentleman. We didn’t always see eye to eye at first but his move to Compliance Manager was a stroke of genius… it was made for John, he made that role his own and his dedication to young upcoming staff was invaluable. It was in his nature, his DNA. Never a sharp word but patience and encouragement that made people succeed, many owe a debt to John. Always happy to be ribbed and give plenty back a wise head on strong shoulders. We can never repay John for his contribution and the legacy he leaves behind, he touched everyone in the business which is reflected by the numbers of messages received all saying the same thing… a true gentleman…

John you were missed the day you retired and we are deeply hurt that you won’t be around to enjoy that much deserved retirement. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Carol and their two children Nicholas and Helen but no words can fill the void left by John. I just want to say thank you. You were blessed, you are blessed and we are all the better for having known you and I hope you get to play the course in the sky!”

Simon Lamb Managing Director.

John was admitted to Weston Park Hospital on the 4th January, he was actually accompanying his wife Carol who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. John had gone along to make sure her treatment was underway but decide to pop by the cancer support unit having developed a swelling in his leg and wanted some cream to treat the condition. Sadly, John was immediately admitted to hospital as his condition had critically worsened. John never recovered and never returned home but even during his time in hospital he still managed to complete his entry into the Makers Super Six league, lying in third place he still felt he had a chance of finishing top!

Cancer is incredibly unfair; it hurts the ones we love and is indiscriminate in who it attacks. The shock shared by our staff is in part due to the ruthlessness and severity in which it took John. John never complained of his condition or emphasised how serious it was which was his way. We are desperately saddened at Johns loss but will hold on to the fond memories and times we shared. The photo below is the last time we shared with him and we are eternally grateful for that moment. Rest in Peace our Very Dear friend we will miss you.

John and Christmas Drinks with the Makers Team

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