The sister of a popular bakery boss today paid tribute to her brother as a “wonderful larger-than-life” character.
John Chalmers, 57, spent more than four decades working at the family Chalmers Bakery – a brand which holds the royal warrant and is known throughout the region for its rowies and pastries.
The dad-of-three showed “amazing resilience and courage” to recover from a vicious attack 11 years ago when his injuries were so severe he had to learn to walk and drive again, his sister Pamela said.
On March 28, John was with his mother Sheila at his Bucksburn home when he collapsed and, despite the best efforts of paramedics, was pronounced dead.
Though he had come down with a bug three days earlier, the exact cause of death is as yet unknown.
Pamela said: “It is very sad for all the family but we are trying to remember the good times.
“We are proud of what John achieved throughout his life. He will never be forgotten.”
After studying at Bucksburn Primary School and then Robert Gordon’s College, John joined the family firm as an apprentice. He started from the bottom of the company, learning how to clean and bake and finally becoming managing director.
Pamela said: “He’s done practically every job in the business.
“None of the staff can say to him ‘this job will take an hour’ as he just replies ‘no, because I’ve done it myself and it takes half an hour’.
“John was quite shy but once he got to know you he would have a laugh and a joke.
“He would also have a joke with the staff – he was a kid at heart, though he was a good boss.
“John was very proud of his family and the baking industry was his life.”
A keen pool player and golfer – and member at Kintore Golf Club – John was a deacon with the Seven Incorporated Trades of Aberdeen, a member of the Scottish Baker 40 Group and president of Scottish Bakers in 2006/2007.
In that role as president, he would travel throughout the UK to discuss the latest developments in baking and important issues such as disability access to shops.
However, in 2007, John suffered a massive setback when he was assaulted on Christmas Day.
He spent four months off work while he had to learn basic skills again.
Pamela said: “He had to learn to walk again and learn to drive again. His injury meant that he sometimes got his words mixed up but he showed amazing resilience and courage to recover.”
During his recovery, John got help from Maidencraig Injury Centre – now the Neuro Rehabilition Unit – at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, which provides brain injury rehabilitation.
A celebration of John’s life is to take place at Bucksburn Stoneywood Church at 11am on Thursday and John’s loved ones have asked those wishing to make a donation in his honour to give to the unit via NHS Grampian.
Pamela said: “The staff there were absolutely wonderful and helped John an awful lot.
“You don’t always realise how vital such facilities are unless you happen to need their help. They were great.”
After returning to work, John focused on deliveries and maintenance jobs around the company.
Time and again he showed he had not lost his creative streak – inventing the curry-flavoured rowie and outdoing rivals Greggs by becoming first to bring the vegan sausage roll to the north-east in February.
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John leaves mother Sheila, 86, sisters Pamela and Angela McKinnon, children John, 26, Fraser, 23, and Lara, 11.
Pamela added: “We would like to thank everyone for all their kind messages and support over the last week. John will be sadly missed and forever in our heart.”
Scottish Bakers chief executive Alasdair Smith said: “The baking community in Scotland is one big family. As president of our association, John Chalmers is fondly remember by everyone who had worked with him.
“Being president of the association is the pinnacle of being a baker in Scotland and shows how highly regarded John was.
“He will be sadly missed.”