TRIBUTES have been paid to a “perfect entrepreneur” and much-loved businessman who has died aged 84.

Dick Lawson ran his garden machinery centre, Dick Lawson Ltd, in High Coniscliffe, near Darlington, for more than 35 years.

After establishing the company in 1968, it went from strength to strength, and son, Philip, and daughter, Julia, later joined the family business, which for many years included a petrol station.

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However, it closed in 2004 to allow the family to concentrate on its property business and the site was developed by Kebbell Homes for housing - named Lawson’s Court in his honour.

Daughter Julia said: “My father was always very polite, generous, kind, caring, thoughtful an excellent business man and a family man.”

Colin Williams, co-owner of Gateshead Lawnmowers, described him as “the perfect entrepreneur.”

“I was a customer of his for a while, then he helped me set up my own business and we became good pals,” he said.

“He was a true gentleman and a smashing man and he’ll be missed by a lot of people.”

Mr Lawson was born in August 1929 in Welton, Lincolnshire, but moved to County Durham at the age of eight.

He attended Darlington Grammar School before going on to gain his general certificate in agriculture at Houghall Community College, later working for a number of agricultural businesses before setting up on his own.

Neighbour of more than 40 years, John Snaith said: “He sold his first machine to me more than 40 years ago.

“He was a terrific host and a very good businessman. He loved the village and took great pride in it - you’d often see him picking up litter.”

Mr Lawson also served as chairman of High Coniscliffe Parish Council for several years.

David Maughan, from Morton Tinmouth used to be a customer at his garage.

“He was a larger than life character and a very good businessman, but he also had a very caring side and he cared a lot for his customers,” he said.

He died on October 25 at The Gardens Care Home, Darlington, and leaves his wife of 59 years, Eve, 82, three children, Julia, Phil and Richard, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

His funeral was held on November 1 at St Edwin’s Church in High Coniscliffe and was attended by more than 300 mourners, including many friends, former customers and staff.