A gentleman who lived for his family and loved to help others
- Credit: Shemmings Family
Graham Shemmings was a fantastic salesman, he would have people out of his hand but behind the businessman's public persona there was a selfless grandfather who gave time and money to support a very worthy charity.
"He was just a kind person and so selfless, he was one of those people who liked to help others. He absolutely loved it," said daughter Karen Argent.
Graham was one of the people who made the Pigs Gone Wild and Elmer's Big Parade art trails happen in Ipswich. He got involved as a sponsor through his business, Homestyle UK, based in Martlesham.
But his support was far greater than his sponsorship fee.
"He would drive all over the place delivering the statues to the artists," remembers Karen. "And he would be there at 4am putting out the statues before the trail launched."
Son Daniel added: "He never let go, he always wanted to do it. He would say 'you stay here, I'll go'. He never wanted any recognition, he would never stand in the front. He just didn't have that personality. He was not a showy person."
Through Homestyle, Graham raised £30,000 for St Elizabeth Hospice and his legacy lives on with the company supporting the forthcoming Big Hoot event.
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Graham was born in Woodbridge, the son of a coalman and one of 10 children.
His older brother Paul, who works for Homestyle, said he went to Woodbridge Primary before moving onto Farlingaye High school, where he met future wife Mandy.
"He had a bit of devilment in him," said Paul.
In their teenage years the brothers packed coal for their father, and would sometimes even deliver it - despite Graham being only 14 he was adept at driving the lorries.
Afterwards the duo would join their father at the pub where they would spend their hard-earned cash.
In the 1970s he was a Special Constable in Woodbridge - another example of him wanting to help others.
Graham and Mandy were married in 1976 and Daniel said: "At first mum rejected him but he soon won her round! Mum was 16 when they married."
The couple had four children and in 1999 Graham made a brave decision to start his own business.
The hard-working and determined father had been selling windows and conservatories for some time, and was known as Golden Graham in his previous company because of his success rate.
"He was fed up building businesses for other people," said Karen, now finance director at the business. “He felt there was a gap in the market for non pressure sales tactics, a family-friendly approach with a personal touch. He was a true leader who stood with his team. Not behind a desk barking orders."
He initially ran Homestyle UK from the family home in Kesgrave, where he converted the garage into his office.
"Within a year he had grown out of the garage and opened an office in Foxhall Road," said Daniel, who is also a director alongside Karen and brother Chris. "He was just a good salesman. He had people eating out of his hands.
In 2002 Graham opened another wing known as Trade Supply, followed by a third company, Micron, and today the businesses employ more than 30 staff.
The business moved several times before setting up shop in their current home in Betts Avenue, Martlesham.
He was immensely proud when his children, and wife Mandy, joined him at Homestyle. At one stage the whole family, plus brother Paul, worked for the company, but youngest son Ashely later left to establish his own business.
"He loved it, it gave him a sense of achievement," said Karen. "He would always say 'I built this business for my children, for them to take it forward'."
But the family joke that far from giving his children an easy ride, he made them work hard.
"It could be hard work working for dad," laughed Daniel.
While Karen added: "He was a stubborn man, very set in his ways. He was old fashioned in how he did things."
Daniel continued: "He loved a pen and paper, he would write something out and tell us we could type it up if we wanted."
Mandy agrees her husband was extremely hard working, and while her children remember he was first to arrive at work each day, and last to leave, she says: "And he would bring it home with him as well."
Graham was diagnosed with lung cancer six months ago, but the family say he had been ill for much longer.
"He had been ill for two years, all during Covid but it was delayed because of the pandemic."
Despite being ill, Graham worked on.
"He had a lung removed, and the next day he was on his emails from the intensive care unit," said his son.
Graham died in hospital on Tuesday, November 30, leaving wife Mandy, his four children and nine grandchildren. He was 63.
His family admit they are lost without him.
"We worked with him every day for near on 20 years. When we had a question we would ask dad what he thought, and we don't have that anymore," said Daniel.
Karen added: "We didn't always agree. But I was a daddy's girl so I would always be the one to tell him if we wanted to do something differently. I could get away with it."
When the family returned to the business in the wake of their father's death, they felt lost, unsure what to do next. But Graham was prepared.
He had written a letter telling them exactly what he wanted and handed it to brother Paul when he was first diagnosed.
The letter detailed exactly what they should do with the business, how to organise his funeral and where he wanted his ashes to be spread.
Graham was a family man through and through.
"He loved his family, and he liked golf. He was quite a home body, and enjoyed being at home," said Karen.
Mandy continued: "If he went out it was only for a time then he wanted to get back to his beloved dog, he loved that dog. It was like his fifth child."
The couple took Ace, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, after he was rescued by the RSPCA seven years ago, and he sadly died a week before Graham's death.
Graham had a clear entrepreneurial spirit and bought several business over the years, building them up and selling them on at a profit.
These included an old fashioned sweet shop in Woodbridge, from which he would take home a bag of pick 'n' mix for Ace.
He also owned Woodbridge Wines and a cycle shop in the town over the years, but his entrepreneurial streak did not stop there.
"He loved his cars," said his brother. "He was always into cars and he would buy cars at auction and do them up."
Chris said the family have been overwhelmed by the support shown in the wake of their father's death.
"The amount of messages we have had, and the number of people who have said he touched their lives, it is amazing. He was just so well loved.
"People have text us to say how kind and great he was, he was a gentleman."
Graham's funeral will be held at Seven Hills Crematorium on Wednesday, December 22 at 4.30pm. Family flowers only, donations to St Elizabeth Hospice.