Happy 100th! Retired funeral director grew successful South Shields business after serving in World War Two celebrates century of life
A retired funeral director who spent his life building a successful business has turned 100.
Doug Johnson was surrounded by family and friends during a surprise party at Bramble Court in Dorset Avenue, South Shields, yesterday, as he celebrated his milestone event.
The centenarian who ran RS Johnson and Sons and created the UK’s first ever purpose built funeral home in Crossgate House, South Shields, only had one birthday wish - for everyone to be happy.
He said: “I’ve always been very determined to succeed in everything that I do in life, but I also think I’ve been very lucky too.
“I am amazed that so many people have taken the time out to see me, I’m more than shocked.”
Born in Corbridge as his mother was an evacuee, Doug returned back to South Shields and worked at builders Milton Swales, which was next to Westoe Bridges, as an apprentice joiner.
His father and grandfather had already established the family’s business in 1884 and operated from Elizabeth Street, Westoe.
Doug said: “I wasn’t allowed to just work for them, I had to learn a trade.
“I then volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1939 and also ended up joining the Army too, but the Navy won that battle.”
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Doug sailed on the HMS Active and took park in the Arctic Convoys - until the war ended and he returned home.
He married his wife Marjorie, who died three years ago, and they raised children Patricia, Carol and Peter - who followed into the family business with a string of parlours across the borough.
Doug said: “At one point we have five family members working in the business and I was always so very proud.
“Especially when customers used to say how well presented and professional my wife and children were, that’s what gave me the determination to build Crossgate.”
After retiring in the 1960s Doug then spent the next 32 years building his retirement home in a disused quarry at Sunnirise in Cleadon.
His achievement made a four-page spread in the Sunday Times as his home was created in the only privately owned quarry in the UK.
Doug was able to live there until just last year,
The grandfather added his most fondest childhood memories were riding on his bogie down to what was called ‘the nest’ just off Mowbray Road, along to the beach.