TRIBUTES have been paid to one the first ever people to work at digger giant JCB who has died at the age of 87.
John Wheeldon was the sixth person to be recruited by founder of the multi-million pound company, Joseph Cyril Bamford, back in August 1948.
He went on to become the company’s first ever demonstrator, before going on to set up JCB’s Training School.
Later on he become JCB’s visits manager.
He retired in 1990 from a company he had dedicated many years of his life to after 42 years’ service.
However, he could not keep himself away and later returned part-time as a tour guide.
Father-of-two Mr Wheeldon, formerly of Combridge, near Rocester and latterly of Uttoxeter, has also started a family tradition of working for the Rocester-based company.
His daughter Jane Staley is JCB chairman Lord Bamford’s personal assistant and this month herself marks 50 years’ service with the company.
The great-grandfather passed away peacefully in the early hours of Wednesday at his home.
Lord Bamford was taught how to drive JCB machines by Mr Wheeldon.
He said of the sad loss: “I knew John from when I was a very young child because he was one of the first people my father employed.
“He was a true gentleman and a very loyal employee.
“My sympathies go out to Jane and all the family at what is a very sad time.”
Before becoming one of JCB’s first employees, Mr Wheeldon also had the distinction of being one of first customers of the machinery company.
The faithful employee worked on farms between Uttoxeter and Alton before he joined the company and when he decided to buy himself a screw-tipping trailer in 1946, he purchased one from Mr Bamford.
In an interview in back 1995 to mark JCB’s 50th anniversary, Mr Wheeldon recalled: “I was one of Mr Bamford’s earliest customers and after I bought one of his screw tipping trailers, he would send other customers to see me to understand the capabilities his products.
“When I joined JCB, Mr Bamford said I could work as a general hand but I would have to learn how to weld and he would teach me, which he did.”