HUNDREDS of people joined together to celebrate the life of a “legend” of Essex business who has died at the age of 81.

Con Donovan, who led the Choice Discount empire for nearly 50 years, died in October, leaving his wife Kath, daughter Frances, four sons Mark, David, Philip and Neil, 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Yesterday, it was standing room only at Holy Family Church in Benfleet as hundreds of friends, family, business leaders and politicians turned out to salute Mr Donovan.

Moving tributes were paid by Frances and other family members illustrating Mr Donovan’s generosity of spirit, business acumen and dedication to his family.

At Basildon and Pitsea Crematorium, Mr Donovan’s friend Sir David Amess, Tory MP For Southend West, spoke of Mr Donovan’s contribution to business life and charity work which earned him a British Empire Medal in this year’s Queen’s birthday honours list.

Mr Donovan opened the first Choice shop in Rectory Road, Hadleigh, in 1966, which has grown to 19 stores, employing 500 people.