THE family of a devoted grandpa and respected garden center manager have vowed to carry on his proud legacy for years to come after his sudden death.
Lou Charnley, owner of Charnley’s Garden Center in Dalton, has died aged 73 after suffering a heart attack.
Lou grew up in Rawlinson Street, Dalton, alongside his siblings Eleanor, Graham and the late Fred.
Raised by his grandparents, Ellie and Lewi, and later by his two uncles, Jim and Pip, his upbringing helped him become a “generous, kind, and hardworking” man.
He got his first job at the age of 14 on Walter Hool’s farm, where he worked 12-hour days of hard labour.
His family said: “Lou has always been a big family man growing up with his brother Fred where they shared the same passion for animals and would often show up at Nanna’s with all manner of birds of prey, wild cats, a miner bird called Peppi. who cursed all the time.
“We kids thought it was hilarious and once even brought home a monkey that only survived three weeks when it destroyed the house.”
A keen dancer, Lou “lived his life to the fullest”, growing up in the late 60’s and 70’s performing often in the dancehalls of Urswick and Morecambe.
When Lou was 22, he settled down and met his first wife, Carol, and the couple had two children: Marc and Leeanne.
It was on the street working for an Irish company called DJ Ryan’s that Lou really found his place.
His family said, “Lou and his brothers Graham and Fred were excited for the opportunity and would work together for almost 20 years.”
In the early ’90s, Lou met his soul mate, Marie Goodings, and welcomed their three children, Jane, Jodie and Becky, into the family.
His family said: “Lou thought of [them] as his own and they saw him as a father figure.”
The couple loved to go on vacations and embark on adventures.
His family said: “We laughed a lot because Lou loved a good laugh. Lou would always put everyone else first — never complaining and always there, whether it was fixing things, offering rides, or driving the grandkids around in his alligator, which he loved as much as the kids did.
“He never said no to anyone. He always showed up, usually late, but he always showed up and never asked for anything in return.”
In his early 40s, Lou said goodbye to DJ Ryan and discovered his passion for growing plants.
First he planted bedding plants with his sister Eleanor, then he moved to Kirkby when he bought a small farm called Low Ghyll where he settled with his brother Fred, later joined by Marc and Leeanne.
The family sold plants in stores, dealt in flea markets and traveled 200 miles to flower auctions.
This laid the foundation for what Charnley’s is today. In 1997, the family began building a plant center that would grow plants and sell them to the public.
Lou’s family said, “That’s what Lou loved: connecting with people, helping them with his gardening knowledge and meeting new people every day, hardly missing a day in the odd 20 years.”
Charnley’s Home and Garden Center grew over the years and introduced a café and bakehouse, which Lou was very fond of.
“Lou was proud of what we had all achieved at Charnley and he made some lifelong friends who he thought were as good as his family,” the family said.
“He was so proud. The only clothes most of us saw Lou in were his Charnley shirts.”
Lou’s son Marc said his father’s death would “leave a huge hole” in the hearts of everyone who knew him.
He said: “Dad always put everyone else first and never asked for anything in return.
“He was so content with what he had that he unconditionally shared his knowledge and time with the people. He had everything he needed for a fulfilling life: a loving family to which he devoted all his time and love for everyone but especially for his many grandchildren.
“He thought a lot about the people who worked at the garden center – he treated them like family.
“He had my back. He will not only leave a huge hole in the garden center but on everyone who knew him. His legacy will be Charnley and I am proud to continue the business in his memory.
“I’m sure the legend of Lou Charnley and the many stories it tells will be passed on for years to come.”