Obituary: John Whitaker, chocolatier

John Whitaker, who has died at 85, was a businessman and accomplished sportsman who founded and chaired the Skipton confectionery firm, Whitaker Chocolatiers.

John Whitaker

John Whitaker, who has died at 85, was a businessman and accomplished sportsman who founded and chaired the Skipton confectionery firm, Whitaker Chocolatiers.

He was born at Skipton General Hospital in January, 1936, the eldest son of Reg and Claire Whitaker, and brother to Fred, Peter and Susan. He went to Malsis School at Glusburn, and then on to Uppingham School, Rutland. He played rugby as a boy for England, became captain of Skipton Rugby Club and also played for Yorkshire.

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After completing his national service in 1956, he returned home to Skipton to help his now widowed mother run the family confectionary and baking business.

But he retained his links with the army, joining the 12/13 Battalion Parachute Regiment of the Territorials.

He was pivotal in developing and expanding the chocolate production side of the family business, forming Whitakers Chocolatiers (Skipton) Ltd in 1961, and quickly becoming a respected and successful Dales businessman.

The development of the chocolate company went from strength to strength, initially through the opening of local retail outlets, and soon made its mark within the hotel and restaurant industry – not least through sales of its noted after dinner mint.

Throughout the next 50 years the factory was developed within the grounds of the family home in Skipton. Today, it produces some 10m chocolates a week and is a key local employer.

John was its managing director for 30 years and its chairman for 35.

A modest man with a dry sense of humour, he had many passions in life. He was an accomplished pianist and lover of classical music, public speaker and contributor to charity.

He loved vintage cars and was an active member of the Bentley Drivers’ Club for more than 60 years, and as recently as this year could be seen driving around in his beloved eight litre model.

He was also a keen cricketer, and played for various local clubs, before eventually becoming president of Skipton Cricket Club in the 1980s.

He is survived by his wife, Anne, children William, James and Sally, and five grandchildren.