After a brief struggle with illness, Edward 'Eddie' Topping, the founder of The Barton Grange Group, died peacefully on September 6, aged 89.
A true retail pioneer, he took over his father’s market gardening business in 1955 before setting up Barton Grange Landscapes two years later.
In 1963, he opened the North West’s very first garden centre which flourished, growing rapidly to become a favourite among gardeners throughout Lancashire.
Forty acres of wholesale container shrub nurseries soon followed and in the late 1970s, upon his mother’s retirement, Mr Topping also took over the running of Barton Grange Hotel on the A6.
Earlier this year - after 65 years at the helm of one of Lancashire’s most successful family businesses - Mr Topping decided to retire and stepped down as chairman of The Barton Grange Group.
He handed over the chairmanship to his eldest son, Peter, who is now running the business with his younger brother Guy.
In April, the Post spoke to Peter about his father and how his dad's "vision and drive" helped the business flourish over nearly seven decades.
Peter said: "The business would never have been such a success without his vision and drive, and we’ll miss him in the boardroom.”
You can read our full interview with Peter Topping here.
During his celebrated business career, Mr Topping became an influential character in the horticultural industry and served as President of the Horticultural Trades Association and Chairman of the Garden Centre Association.
Forever loyal to his Lancashire roots, he supported many local organisations and was a keen Rotarian for more than fifty years. In 2003 he was awarded the MBE for services to charity in Preston.
He leaves a wife, Avis, five children, nine grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
A spokesman for Barton Grange Group said: "In later life Eddie took great pleasure in watching the business move on and was always fully supportive of any proposed developments.
"There was nothing he liked more than wandering through the Garden Centre or Flower Bowl, chatting to anyone he met, cadging a cuddle here and there and always ending with at least one cake or dessert!"
On Tuesday (September 28), Mr Topping's coffin will rest at Barton Grange Garden Centre from 1.15pm to 1.45pm for the paying of respects.
The funeral cortege will leave Barton Grange Garden Centre at 1.45pm and travel through Bilsborrow and Barton, pausing at Barton Manor Hotel en-route to a private family cremation.
This will be followed with a celebration of his life held at St Lawrence's Church in Barton at 3.30pm.
Funeral director Greg Hodgkinson, based in Garstang, said "All are very welcome" to attend the service. Parking is available at Barton Manor Hotel nearby.
The dress code is 'Black Not Required'. The family are not asking for flowers, but say donations can be made - in memory of Eddie - to Cancer Help (Preston) Limited.
If you'd like to make a donation, please contact funeral director Greg Hodgkinson.
The Celebration of Life service will be live streamed. For instructions on how to view the service, click here.