Tributes to man committed to serving the people of Yarmouth

The man who was at the helm of one of Britain's eldest independent department stores for more than two decades has died after a short illness.

Former Palmers managing director Graham Sturrock was 88 when he died at the James Paget Hospital on Monday morning.

Friends and family of the Great Yarmouth businessman have paid tribute to a 'wonderful' man who dedicated what free time he had to serving the community.

His son, Bruce, said: 'He was a big character and a lot of fun.

'He was well respected throughout Great Yarmouth and Norfolk and he's going to be missed.'

Mr Sturrock served in the Royal Navy as a lieutenant during the second world war.

He commanded a motor launch to intercept enemy submarines, and through his service he met his future wife Hazel Palmer.

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She was working as a Wren at the Trimmingham listening post as she could speak both French and German.

After the war the couple wed and Mr Sturrock joined the Palmer family business.

He rose through the ranks to become managing director in 1960, stepping down in 1983 and staying on as chairman until 1993.

A proud moment came in 1987 when Princess Alexandra paid the store a visit on its 150th anniversary.

'He was proud to have continued the tradition of a family business at a time when most independents were selling out to multiples,' said Bruce.

Mr Sturrock was committed to improving the community, and when he was not working at the store he served on the health authority, as a magistrate and on groups including the Rotary Club and the Round Table.

He was chairman of Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design in the 1980s when he fought strongly against the move to Norwich.

He also campaigned to raise funds for the University of East Anglia in its formative years.

'He certainly wasn't someone who was ignored and he filled the room,' said Bruce.

'He normally found himself as the chairman or president of any organisation that he joined and participated in.'

When not serving on committees, Mr Sturrock was a keen golfer.

John Tweed, captain of Great Yarmouth and Caister Golf Club, spoke on behalf of the club to pay tribute to him.

'Graham was a past captain and a delightful man,' he said. 'He was wonderful, lovely company and he will be sadly missed.'

Mr Sturrock is survived by his three children, Bruce, Wendy and Madeleine, eight grandchildren and a great-grandson.

Close friend Hugh Sturzaker, lead governor at the James Paget Hospital, knew Graham Sturrock from his time on the health authority.

He released the following tribute:

Graham Sturrock was one of those diminishing group of businessmen who devoted much of their time to serving the community in which they live. I first met him at the interview I had in Cambridge for the post of consultant surgeon for Great Yarmouth and Waveney in early 1979. Since then I have known him as Vice Chairman of the Health Authority, as a magistrate – but not professionally – as Chairman and later as President of the Palmers chain of department stores, as a patient but above all as a friend.

Graham was always immaculately dressed; he was slim, handsome and he greeted everyone with a smile. He was always concerned about others and, until a few years ago, he took great pleasure in greeting customers to Palmers. He was always most generous with his time and in helping friends and members of staff who might be in financial difficulties.

He, along with other members of the Health Authority and the few consultants who were employed locally, was responsible for inviting David Owen, the Health Minister, to see the poor health provision that existed on the coast in 1975. As a result of that visit permission was given to build a new hospital which was opened in December 1981 and known as the DGH until renamed James Paget Hospital. He spent many years serving on the Health Authority and its many committees. One of his duties was to sit on appointment committees so he was responsible for the appointment of many consultants which was the basis of the subsequent success of the James Paget Hospital. Thus he was intimately involved in developing good health services in the area.

For over fifty years he worked quietly in many fields to improve conditions for the inhabitants of Great Yarmouth as well as overseeing the expansion and success of the family firm of Palmers. All of us owe him a great debt of gratitude.

His memorial service is to be held at Ormesby St Margaret Church on Tuesday, November 22 at 2pm.

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