THE proud family of Hartlepool United legend Ken Johnson have paid loving tributes to him as a “gentleman and devoted family man”.
Ken’s wife Olwen and daughter Julie Greenhow spoke warmly of their life with Ken, who remains Pools’ record goalscorer and one of the club’s most popular players.
He died last Thursday aged 80 after losing a brave two-year battle against fibrosis of the lungs.
Olwen and Julie said Ken, who grew up in Seaton Carew, “lived for Pools” and always had time for his fans.
Olwen said: “He loved Pools. He did get chances to go to different places, but he loved it here.
“I always said if he was a stick of rock he would say Seaton Carew at one end, and Hartlepool United at the other.
“He was a good family man. He never swore or lost his temper.
“The club have been very supportive since he has been ill. I think he has reaped what he has sowed.
“He always had time for people who stopped him in the street, even if he didn’t know them.
“He said ‘it costs nothing to be nice.’”
Ken grew up on his dad Mark’s farm in Seaton Carew and first played football for Holy Trinity Juniors.
He signed for Pools in 1949, despite interest from big names like Arsenal, when he returned from his National Service.
He spent the majority of it playing for the British Army in Hong Kong, and described it as “the best two years of his life.”
In 1954 he married bus conductress Olwen and the couple enjoyed 57 happy years together.
Julie is the couple’s only child.
Ken’s family have been inundated with over 200 cards from well-wishers since his death last week.
Forward Ken played for Pools in 413 games from 1949 to 1964, scoring 106 goals.
One of his favourite games was Hartlepool’s famous 4-3 FA Cup defeat against Manchester United in 1957, in which he scored despite struggling with an ankle injury.
After retiring from the game, Ken and Olwen ran two fish and chip shops in Hartlepool before opening a new shop at the Fens estate which they ran together for 31 years.
But football still played a big part in Ken’s life.
He helped coach youngsters at Holy Trinity Juniors, and after retiring from the business returned to Pools in the late 1990s where he helped entertain fans on matchdays as part of the hospitality set-up.
Julie, 51, said: “He always had time for everyone, and always had a good sense of humour.
“The three of us were best friends. People have said to me he was a true gentleman and a king among men.
“We are proud of him.”
Outside of football Ken loved golf, gardening, a flutter on the horses and going for walks along Seaton Carew seafront.
He also enjoyed family holidays to Spain, Italy and Thailand.
Ken’s funeral will take place at Holy Trinity Church, in Seaton Carew, on Tuesday at noon.