REGULARS at an Accrington pub were left devastated when a popular landlord died on New Year’s Day after suffering a major stroke.
The much-loved landlord of the Victoria, Dennis Gregory, 54, collapsed at the Manchester Road pub on New Year’s Eve after preparing a buffet for the evening’s annual celebrations.
He immediately contacted his best friend Sheila Helm and told her he was having a stroke.
She rushed to his side, an ambulance was called and Dennis was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital.
His younger brother Kevin, 47, who lives in Manchester, was by Dennis’s bedside when he died at 10.20am on New Year’s Day.
Dennis had run the pub for 10 years and was known by many as a practical joker with a heart of gold.
Kevin said: "As soon as Dennis got to know anyone, he would have them sussed straight away.
"He was always joking about with people and everyone took it in good faith.
"Dennis had had a couple of minor strokes but he thought the medication had it all under control. His favourite hobby was to be surrounded by people. If he wasn’t working, he would probably go to another pub to socialise."
Dennis was a member of the pub pool team and would often travel to Tenerife with his friends.
Rhone Hammer, who knew Dennis for around 10 years, said: "He was the most benevolent and generous man who always made sure everyone else was looked after.
"He was really good fun, he just loved people and they loved him."
Appleby Accountants partner Craig Watson, 36, of Oakwood Road, Accrington, said that Dennis was not just a landlord but a great friend to everyone.
He added: "He loved to have a laugh and was a very generous person. You could ask Dennis for anything, he was such a good bloke.
"Everyone in the pub is very sad, it has been quite emotional. He had prepared the New Year’s Eve party so well, but that was him all over. He will be looking down proud that everything went to plan on the night.
"I have lots of fond memories of Dennis, he was a very special man."
Phil Green, 72, of Grafton Avenue, Baxenden, said: "Dennis will never be forgotten but now New Year will always be a difficult time for his friends and family."
Father-of-three Craig Pilk-ington, of Burnley Road, Accrington, said that Dennis would be remembered for his dry sense of humour.
He added: "I am devastated like the rest of the regulars, I just can’t believe it.
"He was a practical joker but would do anything for anyone. He had a big heart of gold."
The cortege will leave the Victoria ready for a funeral service on Wednesday starting at 2.20pm at Accrington Crematorium. Donations have been requested for the Stroke Association or The Christie Hospital, Manchester, c/o Hyndburn Funeral Services.