Tributes to newsagent and 'proper man of the village'

Owen and Liz Church who have been running Hemsby post office/newsagent for 50 years.Picture: James B

Owen and Liz Church pictured in 2014 marking 50 years of running the shop he loved so much. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Tributes have been paid to a community stalwart who ran the shop in his village for over 55 years.

Owen Church died aged 78 while still working as a sub-postmaster and newsagent.

Despite encouragement to retire Mr Church could not consider stepping out from behind the counter at the shop in Hemsby which has been in the family since 1900.

Owen Church, of Hemsby Post Office, receiving his award. Ralph Childs, of Childs Newsagents in Great

Owen Church winning a special centenary award at the 2019 Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN) Awards. - Credit: Archant

Working with his wife Liz the couple put their stamp on the business, overseeing four refits and expansions - but never moving into the digital age, with all transactions done the old-fashioned, and in his opinion most reliable, way.

As well as a being a legend in his own village Mr Church was a highly respected figure on the national stage championing and supporting the independent retailer.

In 1995 he enjoyed a year as the national president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, lobbying Government and building partnerships with wholesalers and publishers.

Mr Church suffered a series of health blows, including a fall, in the three months leading to his death, but remained working in some capacity.

His daughter Claire Stewart-Jacks said: "He died as a sub-postmaster, which is what he would have wanted.

"It meant everything to him. He was a proper man of the village.

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"All he wanted to do was work and serve the community."

She said the family had received hundreds of cards and messages following his death.

Lifelong friend and fellow newsagent Ralph Childs described  him as "a legend" having started in the trade at a time when newsagents didn't even sell milk or bread and going on to run a full-blown convenience store.

"It is 5am starts and finishing when you finish," he said. "Every day will be 14 hours, six days a week, with half an day off on Sunday if you are lucky."

He said Mr Church was also involved in Rotary, Round Table and the Friends of Norfolk Dialect.

Over the years he raised money for many local good causes.

He leaves his wife Liz and two daughters Claire and Michaela, and his grandchildren.

His funeral is on September 14, at midday at Hemsby Parish Church followed by a private family cremation at St Faiths.