Pilot killed ‘legendary’ family man, CEO in crash

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A machine shop owner and pilot in Sarnia, who was recently killed in a plane crash near Stratford, will be remembered as a pillar of the Lambton County business community who was always willing to offer a helping hand.

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A Sarnia machine shop manager and pilot who was recently killed in a plane crash near Stratford will be remembered as a pillar of the Lambton County business community who was always willing to offer a helping hand.

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John Shelley “was that person who was always there for everyone,” Carrie McEachran, chief executive of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, said on Tuesday. “It was a real shock to the community to hear about this tragedy. In the last few days… I don’t think there has been a meeting that hasn’t spoken to John. Everyone knew who (he) was.”

Shelley, President of Shelley Machine and Marine’s second generation, was flying his “beloved” 1941 Grumman G-44 Widgeon aircraft when it crashed just outside Stratford Municipal Airport on the morning of August 23, his obituary confirms.

He was 65 years old.

Rescue workers were called to the crash site shortly after 9 a.m. They discovered the wrecked plane in a field north of Perth Line 43, a stretch of country road near Stratford Airport, about four miles north of the city.

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada continued its initial assessments of the crash on Tuesday.

“A decision to conduct an investigation or not will follow once the preliminary analysis of the information is complete,” a federal agency spokesman said via email.

Shelley Machine & Marine was founded in 1973 by John Shelley Sr., a lifelong marine engineer and machinist, according to the company’s website. The repair shop on Plank Road in Sarnia offers machining, new parts, off-site maintenance, welding and fabrication.

After taking over from his father, the younger Shelley was a member of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce for 20 years.

“John will be greatly missed … in the community,” McEachran said. “He was so active in business and in other areas with his flying.”

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In addition to running the family business, Shelley “always had a need for speed,” according to his obituary. Not only was Shelley a pilot, he also loved drag racing, rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and enjoyed power boating on the Great Lakes.

“He was the epitome of living to the fullest and wanted to share his wealth and talent with everyone he loved,” read Shelley’s obituary. “His loyal and kind soul was greater than any other. He was a great role model for many people and has influenced countless people in our community.”

Shelley, “a legendary husband, father, grandfather, uncle and friend,” is survived by his wife, three daughters and six grandchildren.

The cremation and a private service for the family have already taken place, but a celebration of life for extended family and friends is planned for September 24. Details will be announced as soon as they are confirmed, the obituary said.

In lieu of flowers, sympathy can be expressed through donations to the Sarnia & District Humane Society, the Alzheimer Society of Canada or the Knox Moore Presbyterian Church and will be received at the Smith Funeral Home in Sarnia.

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