A generous Suffolk grain merchant who counted many prominent farming families in the county among his customers has died at the age of 88.

Well into later life, Phil Marsh, of Cotton, near Stowmarket, was still hard at work - both with his day job and playing the organ at his local church.

Son, John, described his dad as "very, very sociable and hard-working".

"He was always driving around the county and meeting with people and doing deals in terms of grain trading and also as a re-seller of supplies to customers," he said. "He would be able to be very confident and resourceful in trying to find solutions for his customers."

In 2022 Phil was delighted when he was presented with a special award for his services to farming from Suffolk Show organisers the Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA).

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Then-show president David Barker visited him at his home to present the award at his home. He described him as an "unsung hero" of local farming.

"He was awarded a Special Award at the 2022 Suffolk Show which due to ill health I took to him a short while after the show," said David. 

"He was a well known and very hard working grain merchant  who also supplied farm products. He would often be seen driving around with his Nissan Patrol and trailer well stocked with items needed by farmers in the area.

"Sarah Maddever who now works for Muntons made the recommendation which I was very happy to support in my year as president of the SAA."

Sarah Maddever - who previously worked for Harlow Agricultural Merchants in Bishop's Stortford - said he would be greatly missed.

"He was such a gentleman and incredibly hard-working and incredibly loyal to his farmers," she said. "He was a pleasure to deal with - incredibly fair, incredibly honest."

Phil was born into a Christian family in Hartest and later moved to Stanstead. He attended Glemsford primary, and after passing his 11+  was admitted to Sudbury Grammar. He was musical and would play the organ at Brockley & Hawstead chapels.

He was called up for National Service in the RAF in Norfolk, where he worked on radar - as well as playing the bugle at ceremonies.

After he was demobbed in the 1950s Phil followed in his father Bernard's footsteps and became a grain merchant - purchasing the grain from farmers and in turn supplying them with a range of goods - many related to animal health.

For a while he worked for general farm traders Brooks of Mistley, near Manningtree, covering west Suffolk and east Cambridgeshire.

After he moved with his parents to the family's new home at Cockfield, he met his future wife.

He was asked to provide accompaniment to a soloist in the Congregational Chapel called Margaret Willis. They fell in love, and tied the knot in 1963.

The couple set up home in Thurston and had three sons - Richard, the eldest, then Stephen and finally, John.

They attended Garland St Baptist Church where Phil played the organ. Later he became involved in the Bury Male Voice Choir - providing piano or organ accompaniment as well as singing.

He eventually became choir leader - and performed at venues as varied as local prisons to the Royal Albert Hall.

East Anglian Daily Times: In 1968, Phil achieved his dream of owning a farm after securing a smallholding at Yew Tree Farm, Ward Green, Old Newton, where he kept pigs, cattle and sheep.

Son Richard joined him on the farm in 1980, but they came out of livestock around 1998/99 during a period of crisis for the pig industry.

Phil returned to agricultural trading - picking up with old customers and forging new relationships for his business, which was called PM Marketing.

He continued to play the organ at Garland Street and Hawstead into later life and also - if needed - at the Methodist Chapel in Old Newton and the Church of England church near his and Margaret's retirement home in Cotton.

Following a quadruple heart bypass at Papworth hospital in 2008 Phil had to cut his workload - but wasn't prepared to retire completely and continued as an agricultural trader and playing the organ well into his eighties.

During the last three weeks of his life he was admitted to West Suffolk Hospital where the family said he received "wonderful care".

Phil Marsh is survived by his widow, Margaret, three sons and eight grandchildren.

A memorial service is due to take place on Thursday, January 18, from 2pm at Garland Street Baptist Church, Bury St Edmunds, and will follow a private cremation earlier in the day.

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