Tributes to Robert Tomlinson − the man who started Tomlinson Groundcare Ltd
PUBLISHED: 00:20 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:32 08 March 2019
Former Stowmarket Strider and ex-Young Farmer Robert Tomlinson died of cancer at 61. This week his friends have told how he cared for people and wanted to bring a smile to everyone,
Robert was born and lived at Buxhall, near Stowmarket – growing up on his parents’ poultry farm and helping out from a young age with the chicks and chickens, as well as caring for the goats, geese and turkeys. He also assisted his beekeeping father with the hives and honey-making.
Robert attended school locally and, recognising his passion and skill lay with machinery and understanding how things worked, went on to study agricultural engineering at Otley College while an apprentice at Mitchell Rowlands at Buxhall. He then did a further year of study at Rycotewood College in Thame, Oxfordshire.
In 1978 Robert joined Overland Machinery, and his lifelong obsession with the John Deere brand began. He started as an agricultural engineer, four years later becoming their parts manager and then a salesman, heading and specialising in the turf care equipment aspect of the business.
In 1991, Overland decided to move away from the turf care side of John Deere and Robert was offered the franchise. On March 1, 1991, he began trading as Tomlinson Groundcare, operating from one small workshop and showroom on the family smallholding.
In the following 28 years the firm has grown into the well-respected business it is today. Operating from a large purpose-built workshop and showroom, it offers customers the space to try machines on the orchards and paddocks surrounding the premises.
“Dad was always keen to forge long-lasting relationships with private domestic and professional customers. This has been demonstrated by the numerous letters and cards of condolences received by the family, mentioning how he had gone that little bit extra to ensure the customer was satisfied,” says daughter Vicky, who joined the business last summer.
On more than one occasion he would assist customers in predicaments – always with good humour and support. One instance was when he headed out immediately to rescue a brand new ride-on lawn mower which the customer had unfortunately driven into his moat within days of having it delivered.
The Tomlinson Groundcare Ltd team has always been viewed as part of Robert’s extended family. Now headed by Adrian Brown, and still with family members involved, they are committed to operating with the same ethos and passion that Robert showed.
Robert supported the local agricultural, game and country shows, and prided himself on providing a well-presented stand, winning multiple tradestand prizes over the years. He was also honoured to be South Suffolk Show president in 2016.
He enjoyed banter with existing customers and friends, and relished the opportunity to meet potential customers – always willing to give his time to people, and continually with a smile. The shows were indeed a highlight of his year.
A keen Stowmarket Young Farmer, Robert made lifelong friends and he continued to support the Young Farmers as an advisory member for many years. He was always happy to host meetings for both senior and junior clubs, including “It’s a Knockout”.
His pastimes included skiing, hiking, walking and running. He enjoyed an annual ski trip with his friends (most of whom he had known since Young Farmers days), hiking the Three Peaks, walking in the Lake District and running with the Stowmarket Striders, while also completing the London Marathon in his 50th year.
He gave a considerable amount of time and energy to the community, hosting the Buxhall annual fireworks display and providing the venue for the Stowmarket Striders Annual Half Marathon, as well as supporting the community in general wherever he could.
Robert was very proud of daughters Becca, Jo and Vicky, and was thrilled when his grandson Isaac was born in November, 2017. His marriage to Sally added four stepsons to the family, and twin granddaughters. Family events were fun-filled special occasions.
A service of thanksgiving for Robert was held at St Mary’s Church, Buxhall. About 600 friends, customers and colleagues remembered and shared their memories of a very special man. The family and Tomlinson team would like to thank everyone for the many cards, messages and support received.
“Robert’s enthusiasm, energy and passion for life always shone through,” said Eric Morton, a Stowmarket Young Farmers’ Club member with Robert and a long-term customer.
“He cared for people and wanted to bring a smile to everyone – in business and his private life. His actions of generosity and diligence made him a truly wonderful character. He will be greatly missed.”