Business manager

A pilot killed in an accident a “legendary” family man, a business leader

A machine shop owner and pilot from Sarnia who recently died in a plane crash near Stratford is remembered as a pillar of the Lambton County business community who was always ready to offer a hand.

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A machine shop manager and pilot from Sarnia who recently died in a plane crash near Stratford is remembered as a pillar of the Lambton County business community who was always ready to offer a hand.

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John Shelley “was that person who was always there for everyone,” Carrie McEachran, chief executive of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday. “It was a real shock for the community to learn of this tragedy. In the last few days… I don’t think a meeting has gone by without John talking about it. Everyone knew who (he) was.

Shelley, the second-generation chairman of Shelley Machine and Marine, was piloting his “beloved” 1941 Grumman G-44 Widgeon aircraft when it crashed just short of Stratford Municipal Airport on the morning of August 23, a confirmed his obituary.

He was 65 years old.

Emergency crews were called to the scene shortly after 9 a.m. They discovered the downed plane in a field north of Perth Line 43, a stretch of rural road near Stratford Airport about four miles north of the city.

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada continued its initial assessments of the accident on Tuesday.

“A decision whether or not to investigate will follow once preliminary analysis of the information is complete,” a spokesperson for the federal agency said by email.

Shelley Machine & Marine was established in 1973 by John Shelley Sr., a lifelong marine engineer and machinist, according to the company’s website. The repair shop located on Plank Road in Sarnia offers machining, new parts, off-site maintenance, welding and fabrication.

After succeeding his father, young Shelley was a member of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce for 20 years.

“John will be greatly missed…in the community,” McEachran said. “He was so active in the business community, as well as in other areas with his flight.”

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Along with running the family business, Shelley “always needed speed,” her obituary said. Not only was Shelley a pilot, but he also enjoyed drag racing, rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and enjoyed powerboating on the Great Lakes.

“He was the epitome of living life to the full and wanted to share his wealth and talent with everyone he loved,” Shelley’s obituary said. “His loyal and benevolent soul was greater than any other. He was an incredible role model to many people and influenced countless people in our community.

Shelley, “a legendary husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend”, is survived by his wife, three daughters and six grandchildren.

Cremation and a private service for the family have already taken place, but a celebration of life for extended family and friends is scheduled for September 24. Details will be announced once confirmed, the obituary said.

In lieu of flowers, sympathy may be expressed by donations to the Sarnia & District Humane Society, Alzheimer Society of Canada or Knox Moore Presbyterian Church and will be accepted by Smith’s Funeral Home in Sarnia.

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