WELL-KNOWN Dorset businessperson Peter Douch – formerly managing director and chairman of the family’s funeral group – has died, aged 76.
Peter stepped down as chairman of Douch Family Funeral Directors last year, saying he wanted to watch more sport, which was his passion.
And on Friday, August 4, he had been watching Gloucestershire play Northants in a one-day cricket match in Cheltenham – and died the following morning.
Peter had been involved in the family funeral business since 1994, after a career as a chartered accountant.
Founded in 1909 by Peter’s grandfather Fred in Wimborne, what became known as Douch Family Funeral Directors was initially a furniture and furnishing business.
Furniture led to coffins and coffins led to funerals and when Peter joined as finance director in 1994 it had just two of its furniture shops left and three funeral branches.
It is now dedicated to funerals with seven branches across Dorset and an award-winning funeral plan, employing more than 50 staff.
After leaving school, Peter trained as an accountant in Poole and secured his first post-qualification job in St Lucia.
It was there he met his wife Josephine, a nurse, but they had to spend many months apart after Peter accepted a new job as an internal auditor with the export division of Coca-Cola.
This meant travel in the USA as well as central and South America.
Returning to St Lucia in 1976 to get married, he became manager in Dominica of accountants Coopers & Lybrand.
Peter secured a job back in St Lucia in 1978 with the local brewery, majority owned by Heineken, where the couple lived with their four sons; Dweyn, Nick, Quentin and Andrew, until a move to England in 1988.
The family settled in the Wakefield area of Yorkshire where the children were schooled, and Peter worked for a management consultant in Bradford.
In 1994, Peter’s father Jack was running the family business and he moved down to join the company as finance director. Later, he became managing director and in 2011 when his son Nick took on that role, chairman.
After his retirement, Peter said: “My father ensured I worked in all aspects of the funeral business so I would know it inside out – from arranging and conducting funerals to coffin bearing.
“It is a grounding that was important and one that I impressed on my children.
“After closing the furniture business, we added to the funeral branches we had already, which were FC Douch & Son in Wimborne, AE Jolliffe in Ferndown and James Smith in Swanage.
“We acquired Albert Marsh of Wareham and Upton in 1999, Lesley Shand in Corfe Mullen in 2000, Anthony Ives of Parkstone in 2005, Charles Small in 2010 and in 2015 we opened a branch of Lesley Shand in Blandford.
“With my family heavily involved in local sport – especially cricket – for years, we have sponsored many teams and leagues and for more than a decade sponsored the Dorset Cricket League through our Dorset Funeral Plan.”
Peter’s son Nick added: “My dad wasn’t keen on the limelight but he shone in business. Tributes have been flooding in.
“Under his leadership the business grew organically and through acquisitions. He was able to innovate while maintaining traditions, and won many awards.
“Following him into the managing director’s role was daunting but under his guidance it was a smooth transition.
“He took pride in the family tradition being upheld as my brother Andrew and daughter Lakeisha became permanent members of the family business.
“Additionally, my brothers Dweyn and Quentin, cousin Jamie, and another daughter, Tamika, all gleaned invaluable experience from their time with the company.
“His passion was sport and he had visited almost all Britain’s professional football grounds, and he particularly loved cricket.
“Growing up in St Lucia, my brothers and I remember fondly our travels around the island and on a few occasions to neighbouring islands, watching my father as a football referee and cricket umpire.
“He was always keen to help people and was genuinely interested in everybody he met, and he was a keen and long-standing Rotarian.”
Peter lived between Dorset and St Lucia and is survived by his wife Josephine, sister Judy, four sons, three granddaughters, and an upcoming fourth granddaughter. He also leaves behind several nephews and nieces who will all miss him deeply.