WELL-KNOWN Island businessman John Wellesley Hill has died at the age of 92.

He was born in Ryde in 1928, the eldest child of Leslie (Jim) Hill and Isabelle (nee Zink), both families having shops in Ryde.

The Hills had Hill’s Stores in the High Street, a family business started in Ventnor by John’s great grandfather in the 1860s, and the Zinks had a hairdressing business in Union Street.

John was educated at Ryde School, went to do military service from 1946 to 1949 in Austria, and then entered the drapery business, working in Guildford, Woking and in John Lewis in London.

He returned in the 1950s to help his father and Uncle Herbert in the shop.

From being a small departmental store, John modernised it in the late '60s and early '70s, specialising in furniture, carpets and linens, and it was renamed Hills of Ryde.

Together with another well-known family business — Hansfords in Cross Street — the two shops amalgamated to allow John to retire, and the shop in the High Street became Hansford Hills. Together they also opened Capitol Furniture Galleries in Newport.

John retired in 1989 but remained a consultant director. With his wife Jonyth, he moved to Niton that year, where they remained.

He was a great community supporter and a member of many societies, particularly supporting Ventnor Botanic Garden and the local National Trust. A sidesman at Niton Parish Church, he tended the gardens for over 29 years, even until this year.

He served on the local parish council for six years, looking after the footpaths and Neighbourhood Watch.

On retirement he took up golf and was the Veterans' Captain at Freshwater Golf Club for two years.

He intended to play ten holes in April but was suddenly taken ill.

His other main hobbies were travelling, photography and gardening. The latter was mainly undertaken at home but also with his wife he bought plants and took care of the beds in the High Street for a number of years on behalf of Ryde Business Association.

A piece was written in the County Press about the ‘midnight gardener ’as he would water and tend the beds after the pubs had emptied.

He also planted the large bed at the Riverside Centre in Newport.

Mr Hill is survived by his wife, daughters Caroline, Frances and Elizabeth, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren, brother Neville and sister Sally.