TRIBUTES have been paid to a "truly caring gentleman" who generously gave his time to the community and numerous civic and charitable orgnisations.

More than 700 people attended the funeral of Richmond businessman John Blenkiron, 84, on Saturday, December 28, at St Mary’s church in the town.

Mr Blenkiron, who died on Friday, December 20, founded John Blenkiron and Sons Limited, Funeral Directors and Joinery Manufacturers in 1967 and was awarded the Freedom of Richmond in 2010 for his work in the community.

The firm also has premises in Barnard Castle, County Durham.

His interest in community life began when he became a church warden at Hudswell in 1962, two years after marrying wife Christine. The couple later had five children.

Reeth-born Mr Blenkiron remained a church warden at Hudswell until 1968, was then a warden at St Mary’s church, Richmond, for 16 years, and was later a member of the Parochial Church Council.

The longest-serving member of the Richmond Rotary Club, he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship for services to Rotary.

He was also Master of Company of Fellmongers, Master of Lennox Lodge and Master of Dales Lodge, and an officer of the Masonic Province of Yorkshire North and East Ridings.

Mr Blenkiron also served as a magistrate, a warden of Mercers, Grocers, and Haberdashers; and was a founding member of the Swaledale branch of Royal British Legion, remaining chairman for 25 years.

He was made Freeman of the City of London in 2002.

He served 12 years on Richmond Town Council, acting as deputy mayor in 1991 and mayor in 1992 and 1993, during which time he met the Queen when she visited RAF Catterick.

His sons Michael, James, John and Richard and daughter Sarah continue to run the funeral directing and joinery firm.

They said their father loved Richmond and was keen to make a positive difference for his community.

James said: “As a family we have had many messages of support which has been so appreciated.

“Dad was very generous with his time – he will always be remembered as a truly caring gentleman and a great example to his children and 10 grandchildren.

“We will miss him greatly but are thankful that he had such a full and active life.”