TRIBUTES have been paid to a leading Southend businessman who died at the age of 91.

Howard Stone played a leading role in the Southend business community for more than 50 years, building an empire of 29 HW Stone electrical stores.

He was also a director of Southend United Football Club and was one of the founders of Essex FM.

Born in West Ham on September 11, 1917, Mr Stone moved to Thundersley with his family when he was six.

A pupil at Thundersley Primary school and later, Westcliff High School for Boys, he was a keen sportsman and talented tennis player.

During the Second World War he served in the Fleet Air Arm and served on HMS Formidable. While on leave he met his future wife Eileen at a dance, and the couple married on March 1, 1948.

He took a prominent role in the local sporting community during the 1960s and 1970s, captaining Southend Golf Club before moving to Rochford Golf Club, where he played for more than 40 years.

Daughter Elaine Tucker said: “Sadly mum passed away in 1998 and dad missed her terribly, but he tried hard to make the best of it. He was a very determined person and in everything he did, whether it was sport or business.”

Friend Howard Southwood added: “I knew Howard for over 40 years and he was a tremendous friend, a real character. His death is a real blow to all his family and friends and he will be sadly missed.”

He leaves four children, Elaine, Trevor, Graham and Tracy, and seven grandchildren.

Mr Stone passed away on November 4 after a short illness. His funeral service will be held at Southend Crematorium on Thursday, November 13 at 2pm.