Tributes pour in for hotelier
ONE of East Anglia's most successful hoteliers and restaurateurs, Gerald Milsom OBE, has died while on a family holiday in South Africa aged 74.Mr Milsom, the founder of Dedham's world famous Le Talbooth restaurant, died on Friday after developing complications in a Durban hospital where he had been suffering pneumonia for three weeks.
ONE of East Anglia's most successful hoteliers and restaurateurs, Gerald Milsom OBE, has died while on a family holiday in South Africa aged 74.
Mr Milsom, the founder of Dedham's world famous Le Talbooth restaurant, died on Friday after developing complications in a Durban hospital where he had been suffering pneumonia for three weeks.
He had flown to his favourite foreign country, where he owned a home, six weeks ago for a holiday with his son and daughter-in-law - Paul and Geraldine - and their two boys.
His death leaves a "gaping hole" in Dedham, the village he helped put on the world's culinary map.
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Those close to him said yesterday his unmistakeable laugh would be greatly missed.
Born in August 1930, Mr Milsom moved into the restaurant business soon after stopping off at a half-timbered tearoom in Dedham in 1952.
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The visit was said to be at a low ebb in his life when he had just been demobilised from National Service in the Army, but it transformed his life.
He bought the tearooms and Le Talbooth became not only the flagship of his business empire, but one of Britain's best eateries.
His company, Milsom Hotels Ltd, grew to include two of Dedham's other upmarket venues - the Maison Talbooth hotel, which was bought in 1970, and the more modern milsoms hotel bar and brasserie , acquired four years ago.
The Pier restaurant in Harwich was also brought under his control in 1978.
The Ipswich Town supporter passionately championed the region throughout his life, founding the East Anglian Tourist Board in 1971 and was its vice-president until 1982.
The avuncular entrepreneur had strong views on how the region's heritage should be promoted with the restricted opening hours of the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum in Dedham a particular source of frustration.
In the late 1960s and 1970s he was also actively involved in politics as an Essex county councillor for 10 years and staunchly supported the Conservative Party for decades.
In 1982, he founded the Pride of Britain, a consortium of some of Britain's best hotels and was a board member until his death.
One of his proudest moments came in 1987 when he was awarded an OBE for his services to tourism and a further accolade came his way 15 years later when Anglia Polytechnic University recognised his contributions with an honorary doctorate.
Outside work, his hobbies were sailing, music and gardens.
Twice married, Mr Milsom leaves three children - David, Nicola and Paul - and six grandchildren.
Leading tributes yesterday, David Milsom said: "My father was such a hugely positive and enthusiastic character and will be enormously missed by all his family, friends and those who he has worked with and welcomed to his restaurants for over 50 years."
Close friend and Conservative frontbencher Bernard Jenkin said he would remember him fondly.
He said: "He was not just a good friend, but he was also something of a mentor. He leaves a huge gap in the life of Dedham and the surrounding area.
"He was a really creative and determined entrepreneur who helped put Dedham on the culinary map.
"I will remember him fondly for many things, but mostly for his charming talent at promoting himself and his laugh - he will be sorely missed."
Chris and Vreni Oakley, staff at The Pier in Harwich said: "Mr G had such a zest for life. He went full steam ahead to achieve his goals."
Stas Anastasiades, executive chef and general manager at milsoms, said: "He was never just interested in a subject - he was passionate, especially with food and drink and always in search of the perfect dish."