Former plumbing boss killed by asbestos exposure from apprenticeship in the 1970s

Sports-mad Gerald Baron was known as the fittest man in Rochester but when an asbestos-related cancer struck he had no chance.

The popular businessman has died aged 62 – two years after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, even though he told doctors he had never worked with the deadly material.

But the plumber, who ran his own firm for 30 years, later traced his exposure to his time as an apprentice in the 1970s.

The disease had lay dormant for decades but when Mr Baron started to get breathless when running, the keen athlete, of St Williams’s Way, Rochester, went to his GP and was diagnosed a week later.

His three sisters want to raise awareness of mesothelioma and warn other tradesman who may have worked with asbestos in the past. Sister Tricia Rutkowski said:

“The doctors kept mentioning mesothelioma to him when he was having tests and Gerald kept saying, ‘I don’t know why they keep mentioning it, I’ve never worked with asbestos’.

It was a shock for him when he was diagnosed. He couldn’t believe it, he did all this running and sport and he had lung cancer.”

Sister Cath Cox added:

“People are shocked. They thought he was the fittest man in Rochester.

He once said that having normal cancer would have been hard but what really made him angry is that it was man-made cancer.”

Mr Baron enjoyed running, cycling, swimming, and rugby. He played for Medway Rugby Club for more than 20 years and was a member of Larkfield Running Club for 10.

He ran seven marathons including London, New York and Paris and often did triathlons.

It was after finding his last triathlon, in June 2104, tougher than usual, he went to his GP about feeling breathless and this led to him being diagnosed.

He gave up running but cycled – sometimes 30 miles a day – and enjoyed walking.

Mr Baron did everything he could to fight the disease, using a compensation payout to fund private treatment and taking part in drugs trials.

At first he was given six or seven years to live but would tell his family he wanted 10. He died after two years. In July, doctors told him there was nothing more they could do. He died 10 days later, on August 7.