A man who devoted much time to Todmorden life, Mr John Harwood Wild has died at the age of 80.
The elder son of the late John Arthur Wild MBE and Elsie Wild, he was educated at Roomfield School and Todmorden Grammar School before studying printing at Manchester College of Technology.
He undertook National Service as a Royal Air Force radar operator for fighter command. Stationed at Portland Bill, Weymouth, during his service he met his wife, Patricia Ann Burcher, at a Young Conservative charity ball. The couple married on September 2, 1958, at Weymouth Congregational Church, settling in Todmorden, having three daughters, Deborah, Karen and Rachel, and seven grandchildren who always gave him great pleasure and joy.
Following National Service he became a trainee manager at the family printing business, John Bentley and Sons Printers Ltd, in 1955, becoming director in 1963. Following a merger in 1969 the company became part of the Dunn and Wilson Group, where he was managing director until retiring on health grounds in 1988.
A highlight of John’s printing career came in 1976 while chairman of Calderdale and Kirklees Caxton Centenary Committee, when he was invited to a reception at the Houses of Parliament and by the Lord Mayor of London to a reception at his manor house.
He served in many regional and national roles in the industry and in 1988 appeared in the “Who’s Who” of the printing industry, the Printers Year Book. His dedication gained him the greatest of respect from professional colleagues and business clients.
Following heart surgery in 1990, John followed a second career and became a self-employed counsellor with the government Small Firms Service, which later became Business Link, providing advice to clients who were setting up small businesses. Based in East Lancashire and West Yorkshire, his work took him as far afield as Birkenhead, Goole, Batley and Halifax. He was instrumental in opening an office in Todmorden. In 1993, he was presented with the Business Counsellor of the Year award.
He was a founder member of the Institute of Business Counsellors that became the Institute of Business Advisors in Yorkshire and Humberside.
He later developed and delivered training courses to help new start-up businesses and enterprises in Oldham and delivered the Start Right programmes in conjunction with Barclays Bank. He enjoyed this new career and it was with regret that he eventually retired at the age of 72.
Joining the Rotary Club of Todmorden in 1970 opened up new avenues of service. He was club president in 1978-79 and while in Rotary received the two highest awards possible, the Paul Harris Fellowship and the Four Avenues of Service (as at that time he was chairman of Todmorden Operatic Society, chairman of school governors, chairman of Todmorden Town Twinning Association and chairman of the Chamber of Trade).
Whilst chairman of the club’s Rotary International Committee he was founder chairman of Todmorden Town Twinning Association and in 1984, as chairman, was the signatory to the town twinning agreement with Roncq. He served Rotary continuously for 43 years, dedication recognised this July when he was made an Honorary Member.
Rotary enabled John to realise a lifelong ambition of playing Father Christmas, a role he played for 37 years, including visits to schools, turning on the town’s Christmas lights and visiting children at home.
For 25 years, through Rotary, he organised Father Christmas visits to see children in their home on Christmas Eve and present them with a small gift.
He felt he repaid a debt for a similar visit he had one Christmas Eve when he was a six-year-old boy, which he had never forgotten.
He became a parent governor at Todmorden Grammar School in 1975 and was involved of the merger of the two Todmorden senior schools into Todmorden High School. He was then elected chairman of governors, a position held until 1990 when he had to retire from the post following heart surgery.
John Wild’s interests were many and varied throughout his life.
For example, as a teenager he joined Todmorden Lawn Tennis Club, becoming secretary and captained the B team.
His main interest, which will be well remembered, is his lifelong interest in amateur theatre.
In 1946 he was a founder member of Todmorden Children’s Theatre and was a representative at the first meeting of the newly-formed Todmorden Players, with early productions staged at Central Methodist Church.
When Todmorden Amateur Operatic Society reformed in 1954 he rejoined after his national service.
He went on to appear in more than 24 music productions and 23 plays at Todmorden’s Hippodrome Theatre.
He served on the committee for 40 years and held the position of chairman, becoming president of Todmorden Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society when the drama society and Todmorden Players merged.
An established speaker, his wit and humour in many speeches made as chairman and president of the society were legendary. A holder of its 50 years’ long service award, be became a life member of the society on his 70th birthday in 2003.
Out of many parts he will perhaps best be remembered for playing the King in The King And I in 1970, other memorable roles including Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler On The Roof, Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, Emie in South Pacific and Zeus in Orpheous In The Underworld.
John was a keen caravanner for more than 40 years, with his happiest times being at Skipton for many weekends when his children were small and, later, holidaying with Pat at their favourite spot in Playa Montroig Costa Dorada.
He was a regular churchgoer at St Mary’s Church.
In recent times he enjoyed playing bridge with his late brother David, his wife Pat and as a men’s bridge four with friends.
He will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind, generous and caring man, dedicated to the service of his community and as a very dedicated, loving, family man.
His wife Pat, daughters Deborah, Karen and Rachel, and his seven grandchildren survive him.
His funeral service will be held at St Mary’s Church, Todmorden, on Friday, November 15 at 1.30pm, followed by commmital at Burnley Crematorium at 3pm.