'Larger than life' Ipswich businessman Bob Shelley dies
PUBLISHED: 07:37 27 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 27 August 2018
Tributes are being paid to ‘larger than life’ Ipswich businessman and radio celebrity Bob Shelley who has died at the age of 78.
Mr Shelley spent years on the airwaves at BBC Radio Suffolk and co-presented the Happy Hour show with Stephen Foster.
He spent decades raising tens of thousands of pounds for charity, and was known for his big heart and infectious sense of humour.
From a hard upbringing, where as a young man he found himself living on the streets, he later built a business empire - owning various cafe’s, taxi firms, a security company and properties around Ipswich.
A talented amateur boxer as a young man, he later supported further generations of boxers to life their dream, providing vital mentorship and financial backing while running the Arcade Boxing Club.
He later became a radio celebrity, commentating on boxing as well as making appearances on BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sports Round Table and co-hosting the Happy Hour show with Stephen Foster.
But it was his charity work that he is best known for - comparing charity boxing matches, fundraising dinners and testimonials, raising tens of thousands for good causes and rubbing shoulders with the biggest names in sports and celebrity.
In 2010, he helped publish a book of poems from author Jane Mower in aid of the EACH Treehouse appeal.
A family man, Mr Shelley was very close to his mother Josephine, or Jessie as she was known, who he absolutely adored.
His daughter Petra described her father as ‘the man of Ipswich.’
“He was very kind and very generous,” she said.
“If he could help you he would, and if he couldn’t he would find someone that could.
“Everyone went to Dad for answers and for help and he always would. He was my best friend and my hero.
“He was a bundle of laughs, he always saw the good in people.”
His partner Lesley said: “He was larger than life - he will leave a large hole in people’s lives.
“He was a character, a very funny man.
“He was very poorly early on Saturday and the nurse was there to inspect his drip.
“He said to her, ‘we’ll have to stop meeting like this’.
“Even when he was really ill, Bob could come up with a joke. “
Mr Shelley had two children Mark and Petra, and four grandchildren Francesca, Charlotte, George and Archie.
Friends of Mr Shelley have described him as ‘one in a million’.
Nick Pandolfi, who first met Mr Shelley in the 1990s at BBC Radio Suffolk, said he was hugely popular with listeners.
He said: “He was one of those people who mixed with all sorts.
“He had this ability to entertain and converse with landed gentry one minute, and then with a football fan in the Churchman’s stand the next,
“It was all down to his charm and willingless to make people smile. He knew what it was like to have nothing but always kept enthusiastic. He must have raised tens of thousands for charity,
“He never wanted to talk about his life story though, he was always more interested in you.
“The radio listeners absolutely loved him.
“He was a peak - you could always see when Bob came on.
“He just made them feel better with his lousy jokes.”
BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Mr Foster described him as ‘a real Ipswich legend.”
He said: “He was a very kind man and our years together on BBC Radio Suffolk doing The Happy Hour are up there with my favourite broadcast moments.
“To say we used to sail close to the wind is an understatement.
“In fact, in Bob’s own words, his shirt used to shoot up his back like a roller blind.
He couldn’t sing but he used to take his shoes off and hum.
“He was great company and a real Ipswich legend.
Her added: “A bright light has gone out in my hometown. Thanks for your wonderful company and kindness Bob.”
Friend Dave Allard, former sports writer for the Evening Star, said: “Bob Shelley was one in a million and there can be few people in Suffolk who have raised as much cash for charity.
“Bob was a champion amateur boxer and it was through boxing tournaments that he raised the great deal of the charity money.
“He and also a great compare of charity events and for many years auctioned off items at the Copdock Hotel in aid of good causes. Bob had a hard up upbringing, being the son of an army Sgt who moved around the country and Europe. My greatest memories of Bob come with his comedy. He always saw the bright side even to the end.
“I will remember him as a great entrepreneur, a terrific comedian and a great man in general.”
BBC Radio Suffolk breakfast presenter Luke Deal said on Facebook: “How we laughed on a Sunday morning!
“Bob was a great character, larger than life and was a true gentleman. RIP Bob.
“ Our thoughts go out to your friends and family. Thanks for the laughs and the great stories. You will be sorely missed.”
Morning show producer Sally Burch said: “Devastated doesn’t begin to come close.
“He was the gentlest of giants and had a heart to match.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard the dreadful news this morning.
“Poop scooping in Sudbury for Children in Need is up there in the most surreal things we did together.
“My heartfelt love to Lesley and Bob’s family. Lovely lovely man xxx”