Tributes paid to Essex businessman Bert Pickford

Bert and Jean Pickford

Bert and Jean Pickford - Credit: Archant

Bert Pickford, who ran one of the most successful family businesses in Essex, has died aged 95.

Bert and Jean Pickford

Bert and Jean Pickford - Credit: Archant

Bert, who had been suffering from cancer for the past six months, is remembered as a kind and clever man with a great sense of humour.

His brother David said: “Bert was a very clever businessman. He was astute but he knew how to handle people. At one time, the building business employed 83 people, we used the best tradesmen in the area.”

Bert was born on April 1, 1920, one of seven children to parents, Eliza and Fred who owned The Bell public house in Great Easton.

David said: “We had cows and we took milk round and we had pigs and we sold meat. We also had a building business.

“Bert was 18 when the Second World War started. My father had been in the First World War and he didn’t want Bert to go in the trenches. He had a friend who was a ship owner and Bert got a job as ship’s carpenter.

“He was on the Atlantic convoys in 1940 and 1941 when the U Boats were sinking half the ships, it was the most dangerous job he could have been put in.”

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When Bert was home on leave, he met his wife Jean. He saw her keeping his sister company on her 7am round collecting pig swill. Jean was a cook housekeeper at one of the stops.

On their 70th anniversary in February 2014, Bert said: “I thought if she looks like that this early in the morning, I can’t imagine how she looks when she is all dressed up. I loved her from the moment

I saw her.”

David remembered: “They married when Bert was on leave. He hitch-hiked to his wedding. It was wartime and no one had any petrol. His son Ralph was born while he was still away.”

Bert joined the Royal Navy and served in Aden and Burma. After the war, he took over running The Bell and later, as the building business got bigger, Fred named the building business Pickford and Sons and Bert ran the yard in Church End, Dunmow.

The firm was also a funeral directors.

Bert was generous with his time and involved in village life. In the 50s, he built the floats for the Dunmow Carnival Queens and he was a member of the Rural District Council.

David said: “He was a complete extrovert. He was wonderful. He was very good to his grandchildren. I lost my wife and a child and Bert came in and took over for me. He was a damn good brother.”

Bert leaves his wife Jean, brother David, sister Mary and son Ralph. His daughter Sue died some years ago. There are four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Bert’s funeral will be at Great Easton Church, St John and St Giles at 1pm on Friday, February 12. The family has requested no flowers and Bert wanted everyone to wear bright colours.