Francis Hanson has died in Spalding

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Francis Hanson, the inspiration for Spalding’s Flower Parade and an institution in the town, has died, aged 90.

Francis, who lived with his wife Barbara in Spalding, made a brief appearance at his 90th birthday party at Springfields just two weeks ago.

It was attended by a small number of his close family and friends – 114 people – because Francis is very well-known locally as a result of the many interests he has had and the groups he supported.

Born in Pennygate, Francis joined the choir at St John’s Church aged five, which led to a life-long love of music.

He was a chorister at St Mary & St Nicolas Church for around 80 years and was founder chairman of South Holland Singers. In 2007, he was awarded the Certificate of Special Service from The Royal School of Church Music.

Francis, who has served on many committees involving the bulb industry, was awarded an MBE in 2000 and in his earlier life was made Freeman of the City of London for his services to horticulture.

Barbara describes Francis as an entrepreneur, because he switched from a successful horticultural career mixed with pig rearing, to launching Wygate Foods Ltd, producing dog biscuits.

He was involved with the Tulip Time committee, and it was Francis, after a visit to the Dutch parade, who suggested that the system of transporting Miss Tulipland around the district in a hearse with glass windows could be improved. What resulted was the flower parade.

Francis’s other great love, apart from orchid growing, was travel – he and Barbara had cruised all over the world, re-visiting many of the places he had been to during war service.

This was a despite a disability as a result of contracting MRSA while being treated for a tumour in his groin, which left him with no left hip.

Barbara says: “He did remarkably well. He nearly died then and he has had septicemia a couple of times since then and nearly died. Latterly, he was in a wheelchair.

“He has lived life to the full and right to the end he had a brain as acute as ever.”

He leaves a stepfamily, stepson Michael Hills, stepgrandson Oliver and step greatgrandchildren Daniel (21) and Olivia (17) as well as a sister, Janet Sherwood.

A funeral date will be confirmed later.