The owner of St John’s Garden Centre has been paying tribute to his father and the founder of a successful local business.

St John's Garden Centre founder David Oliver celebrates his 80th birthday. Picture: The Oliver familySt John's Garden Centre founder David Oliver celebrates his 80th birthday. Picture: The Oliver family

David Oliver died on June 20 aged 87 following a short illness but left behind a legacy his family can be proud of.

Nick Oliver told the Gazette David had instilled in his staff an ethic of enjoying work, meeting and talking to people.

He leaves behind his wife Patsy, their sons Nick, Simon and Tom and daughters Frances and Maxine, as well as nine grandchildren.

Incredibly well-known in the area, David had a passion for sailing and was also a staunch supporter of the Barnstaple branch of the RNLI, serving as its president.

David Oliver breaking the first ground on the St John's Garden Centre site at Newport. Picture: The Oliver familyDavid Oliver breaking the first ground on the St John's Garden Centre site at Newport. Picture: The Oliver family

Nick said: “Dad enjoyed not only working and business, but he loved to meet people and has enthused his staff and family to carry on with the business and grow it further for the future.

“He was well known for his laugh and his chat, and the encouragement he gave to people.”

David moved to North Devon aged 12 in 1942 when his father Colonel Oliver was stationed in Ilfracombe during World War Two and the family lived at Hele.

They later moved to Pickwell Manor at Georgeham where the family established a market garden.

The original St John's Nurseries site in Barnstaple, where Tesco Rose Lane is now. Picture: The Oliver familyThe original St John's Nurseries site in Barnstaple, where Tesco Rose Lane is now. Picture: The Oliver family

David did National Service and went to Bicton Agricultural College to pursue his interest in horticulture, where he met Patsy and they married in 1956.

In 1971 they set up St John’s Nurseries in Barnstaple on what is now the Rose Lane Tesco site, growing salad produce – Nick recalls the family lived at one end of the packing shed and the fruit the other, with a steady childhood diet of split tomatoes and odd-shaped cucumbers.

In 1981 the garden centre opened on its current Newport site, initially starting in a small way but growing and being added to over the years until it is the thriving business of today with more than 70 staff.

David was a natural sailor and enjoyed trips to the Azores, France and Ireland. He was deeply involved with building the Watermouth Yacht Club clubhouse.

Nick and Simon Oliver with their dad David shortly after the family house was buiilt on the current St John's Garden Centre site. Picture: The Oliver familyNick and Simon Oliver with their dad David shortly after the family house was buiilt on the current St John's Garden Centre site. Picture: The Oliver family

In later years he sailed less but was a keen fundraiser for the RNLI and making people aware of its work.

At his funeral a collection of almost £1,000 was taken for Barnstaple RNLI.

St John's Garden Centre in the early days. Picture: The Oliver familySt John's Garden Centre in the early days. Picture: The Oliver family

St John's Garden Centre foudner David Oliver enjoys a well-deserved break from toil. Picture: The Oliver familySt John's Garden Centre foudner David Oliver enjoys a well-deserved break from toil. Picture: The Oliver family

The late David Oliver, St John's Garden Centre founder, had a love of sailing. Picture: The Oliver familyThe late David Oliver, St John's Garden Centre founder, had a love of sailing. Picture: The Oliver family