Sad farewell to two industry friends



David Baldrey, former chief buyer of wholesale business Spicers, passed away last month following a courageous battle with cancer. He was widely regarded as one of the most influential and respected figures in the UK OP industry.


David spent much of his distinguished OP career at Guteridge Sampson, the London-based stationery wholesaler. When the company was taken over in 1974, David’s career at Spicers began.


According to friend and colleague Eric Smith, David relished the new opportunity and swiftly became a hugely popular figure in the Sawston community.


David served Spicers as marketer, buyer and catalogue producer. He played a central role in the massive growth of the company’s wholesaling business during the 1980s and 1990s. Smith described the period as one "in which David’s influence in contributing to the success of new products was considerable".


He was a great source of knowledge about the industry. "A one-hour lunch meeting with David could explain more about what was going on in the trade than I would find out from 1,000 21st Century emails," according to Smith.


David was also greatly involved with the BOSS Federation. He helped make the East Anglia branch one of the strongest in the country. The branch’s dinner dance was always well attended by a very high proportion of Spicers suppliers.


Smith vividly remembers one particular BOSS event, the annual conference that was held at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate. "The fancy dress theme was ‘back-to-school’. There were lots of gym slips, short trousers and mortar boards. What did David come as? The most realistic school nurse you’d ever seen. Starched uniform, stethoscope, black stockings and suspenders. One word – stunning."


David was renowned for his fantastic sense of humour and often brought smiles to the faces of those around him. Smith shared the following memory with OPI: "Early one morning David was accosted by our then managing director, Chris Behrens, who demanded to know who had ordered a 40 ft arctic load of Weetabix. David explained to Chris that the canteen hadn’t gone berserk, but that Weetabix was collecting packaging film from Mardons, which rented a factory on our site."


David’s comedy act was heavily influenced by his self-confessed vices – smoking and drinking.


Another Spicers colleague and friend, former CEO Bill Armstrong, remembers David’s daring side and his reluctance to be politically correct. In the late 1980s when Spicers first began to place restrictions on smoking in the workplace, David fought very hard for the freedom to continue smoking. His office contained a notice which read ‘Please Smoke’.


At one management team meeting, where the vast majority of attendees did not smoke, a proposal was presented to ban smoking in meetings. David saw red. He threatened to resign. After much debate, a compromise was eventually thrashed out. David could continue to smoke, providing he sat with an air-conditioning unit behind him.


In addition to his position as buyer, David’s crucial role within the management team was that of beer monitor. "In the good old days we tried to complete monthly management meetings before lunch in order to retire to the Queen’s Head at Newton for beef sandwiches and the odd pint of Adnams. David, as beer monitor, had total responsibility for beer procurement and discharged his duties with great distinction" remembers Smith.


He certainly had the ability to make those around him relaxed and entertained. "His need to communicate with people around him was compulsive and language barriers did not deter him. He would use mime, dance, sign language and shouting to engage with non-English speakers. They may not have understood him but they knew he was a very friendly bloke," Smith commented.


His take on the Japanese language was extraordinary. One of David’s stories involved a Japanese person whose outside toilet fell into a river while the owner was sat on it. David told this joke with his glasses upside down whilst adopting an excruciating Japanese accent. The Japanese managing director of Pentel loved it and requested repeat performances.


He kept his sense of humour to the end. A lot of his jokes involved the medical profession and seeing the funny side of medicine sustained him in his long fight with cancer. His view was: "Being ill is bad enough without being miserable about it."


David’s legacy is best summed up by his friends. Armstrong said: "David was a much loved character in Spicers who wore his heart on his sleeve. He was always hard working, passionate, positive and loyal. He was a big supporter of BOSS and always demonstrated a fantastic sense of humour. He loved to make people laugh. He shall be missed."


Smith added: "I was lucky enough to have David as a colleague and friend for 31 years and knowing him counts as one of the great bonuses of my life."


Bob Parker, president of National Office Products Council (NOPC) and former CEO at O’Sullivan Industries, sadly passed away this summer at the age of 60.


The ever-popular industry leader died peacefully in his sleep following a strong and courageous battle against illness.


Bob’s long and fruitful career in the OP industry spanned more than two decades. In 1983, he joined Sanford Corporation, also known as Sharpie Products. He served as the company’s president during its acquisition by Newell Rubbermaid.


In 2004 he left Sanford and headed to O’Sullivan Industries, where he took up the role of CEO. Then, in November last year, it was announced Bob was to take a medical leave of absence from his position at O’Sullivan.


Bob will be fondly remembered for his business acumen, sharp wit, and for his tireless fundraising and leadership of the NOPC’s campaigns in support of the City of Hope. His efforts generated tens of millions of dollars over the years.


Rick Walters, Bob’s successor as CEO of O’Sullivan Industries, said: "Bob was a tremendous leader, motivator and friend. We all had the highest professional regard for him and feel great personal sorrow at his loss. Our deep sympathies are extended to Bob’s family."