A HEARTBROKEN son today spoke out about the sudden death of his dad, businessman Alan Gelder.
Founder of Gelders Bakers and owner of the Bungalow Cafè, Alan, 76, died suddenly of a cardiac arrest, leaving a devastated family.
Roker-bred Alan was known as a larger-than-life character, and his son Tony, 54, said: “He was well respected and loved by everybody who knew him.
“His workers didn’t look on him as a boss, but more as a father. They called him Mr G.
“He thought of them as family and I am sure they felt the same.
“Some of them have worked at the factory for about 10 years, but most of them have worked there for 20 or 25.”
Alan, a former Redby School pupil, started Gelders Bakery in 1958.
It has since grown and developed, having moved to a butcher’s in Bede Street for 20 years, then to Ibbotson’s Butchers’ old factory unit on Leechmere Industrial Estate.
It is now in a 5,000 sq ft factory unit at Riverside Road, Southwick Industrial Estate, employing 32 staff.
Alan, who was married to Lillian, 77, still worked day and night shifts at the factory alongside Tony, who now owns and runs the family business.
Tony, married to Shirley, 54, and father to Victoria Thompson, 32, who also works at Gelders, said: “Everything will run the same as it always had. He wouldn’t want anything else.
“That’s why we are having the funeral in the afternoon when the factory is quiet, because we won’t have to shut it.”
Alan, a grandfather of three and great-grandfather of two, also owned the Bungalow Cafe at Roker for 48 years, and ran it for nearly 40.
Tony, whose sister Hilary, 49, left Gelders Bakers in February to begin a new life with her husband Wayne, 51, in Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull, said: “He loved that place. I can remember it right from the beginning, and I used to run it for him when he was away.
“I think it was his favourite place in the world. He had many happy times there.
“He knew many of the customers really well. He knew nearly everybody there.
“He took over in 1964 and stopped running it about 10 years ago, but we still own the building.”
Alan, whose mother Lillian had also helped him run Gelders Bakers, was an avid Sunderland AFC fan as a boy and had been friends with many ex-players and managers.
Tony said: “He used to play lace football but was blinded in one eye by a lace.
“He was a keen swimmer, though, and used to swim for Sunderland at Newcastle Road Baths.”
The funeral service will take place at All Saints’ Church, Fulwell Road, at 2.30pm tomorrow, followed by committal at Sunderland Crematorium.