A FORMER chairman of a Heckmondwike sports company who made football boots for Stanley Matthews has died.
Mileta Sports chairman Donald Ward, who made the boots himself while working for the Co-op Boot Company, died aged 83 on April 25.
The eldest of four children, he was born in Tweedale Street, Dewsbury.
His son Brian said: “He was a puny child and was sent away most weekends to his grandparents to be fed. He went on his own on the tram to Wakefield with a label attached to him telling the conductor where to put him off the train.”
He passed his 11 plus exam but could not go to grammar school because he was expected to get a job at 14, and the family could not afford the school uniform.
In 1939 he joined the Messenger Corps and in his spare time made and sold crosses, photo frames and badges out of Perspex from crashed bombers.
He learnt engineering and machinery repair as an apprentice millwright at Walshaw and Brookes.
He met his wife, Margaret, aged 16 at a dance at Dewsbury Town Hall. The couple were happily married for 55 years.
Donald joined the army in 1943, modifying tanks for the D Day Landings.
After training as a paratrooper he was on the way to Japan when the atom bomb was dropped.
He left as a sergeant and worked his way up to chief engineer at the Co-op Boot Factory, Heckmondwike, where he made the boots for Stanley Matthews.
Brian said: “Because Stanley was getting old, he needed lightweight boots, rather than the heavy ones which were available then. They were made from kangaroo leather, which is very light but not very durable.
“The boots undoubtedly extended Stanley’s career by several years.”
Don set up a sewing machine repair company in 1958 which made boot uppers for Puma, and set up Mileta Sports in Liversedge with Huddersfield world record runner Derek Ibbotson.
The company’s current premises in Spen Vale Mills, Heckmondwike, were opened by Brazilian footballer Pele and the Santos team.
Don invented the popular football bag, and the company then began supplying the airline and promotional industry.
It also invented identitabs, numbered stocking ties worn by players, for Leeds United, and took over TOG24 outdoor clothing, opening more than 50 stores.
Brian said: “Don loved holidays and for many years went with mum, his handicapped son Graham and a selected grandchild to the West Indies with CTC, a Russian cruise company.
“He thought it was great and made many lasting friendships with crew and passengers. He loved to throw bacon sandwich and champagne parties in his suite.”
The couple had four children — Brian, Ian, Barbara and Graham, who had cerebral palsy.
Don was president of the Dewsbury and District Spastics Society for more than 50 years, and president of the Spenborough and District Athletic Club for more than 20 years. He set up the Mileta 10 Road Race which continues today.
Don leaves Brian, Ian and Barbara, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Brian said his dad was a ‘true Yorkshire character’.
He added: “He genuinely loved people and was never happier than when amongst family and friends, preferably at a party!”