Mourners will today pay their respects to successful Aylsham businessman Mick Neale who has died aged 74.
Mick saw his North Walsham-based Ashford Commercial grow from a local windows firm to a major national construction company.
But he was also well-known and respected in the local football world, as a family man and an unsung supporter of local good causes.
Daughter Louise said: “We are proud of what dad did in life but also of his kindness, compassion and generosity, and he never forgot his humble beginnings.”
Mick died after a two-year battle with leukaemia, and donations at his funeral in Aylsham parish church today at midday (Friday Sept 10) were for Norfolk’s Big C cancer charity.
He was born the youngest of seven children in 1947 in Hindringham, grew up in Langham where the family lived in a Nissen hut near the airfield, and attended the village school, before high school in Wells and college in King’s Lynn.
His early working life included spells on a turkey farm, at Fakenham Laundry and farm labouring. After being a foreman at J D Wright builders, who built the Green Lanes estate in town, he set up Oliver Neale builders with partner Ray Oliver, before launching Aylsham Construction on his own.
In 1996 he had the chance to buy Ashford Windows, which over the following 35 years expanded into a company providing windows and doors for councils, housing associations, education campuses and health trusts across the nation. It has grown from four to more than 70 employees.
Mick, who was managing director until son Matthew took over recently, said the growth was a result of a mix of hard work, good attitude and a bit of luck.
Football was a major part of his life – with the highlight of hitting the bar at Carrow Road playing for Holt against Gorleston in the 1964 Norfolk junior cup final.
He coached youth football, beginning when Matthew was in the team and was president of Aylsham football club.
A club spokesman said: “Mick was a mainstay of the club for many years as a player and sponsor – a tremendous bloke who got on with everyone he met, and provided unsung support wherever he could in the local area. He will be sadly missed.”
Mick was a popular regular at the Feathers, where he played darts, and the Black Boys, as well as an avid follower of horse racing. He met wife Jenny in the Railway Tavern in Holt. They married in Edgefield in 1968 and moved to Aylsham on buying their first home in Sir Williams Way.
They marked their golden wedding in 2018 and enjoyed travel including to his favourite place Mauritius. He enjoyed family life and was proud grandad to five grandchildren.