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Tributes to Accrington Lions favourite Frank Crabtree

The keen fundraiser died suddenly after an operation on July 20

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Tributes have been paid to a community group stalwart and Christmas volunteer, who passed away suddenly, aged 79.

Frank Crabtree died at Royal Blackburn Hospital on July 20, the day after an operation to treat his recent cancer.

A former prison officer, Frank was one of the most active members of the Accrington Lions, which he joined in 2003, and did many fundraising runs to support the club.

For six years he was best known to hundreds of children who visited the grotto he ran at Oswaldtwistle Mills at Christmas.

Frank’s son Les Crabtree paid tribute to his dad who he described as a straight-talking, loving father whose greatest joy was making children laugh.

He said: “Straight to the line, that’s the sort of man he was. But when it came round to family life he was a massive softy.

“He loved children, he would do anything for any of his kids. He didn’t do the grotto for money, he did it because he wanted to and because he wanted to make children laugh and smile.

“It’s a massive shock to the family, we just can’t believe it.

“He was so happy and full of life.”

Accrington Lions president Caz Moreton said: “The club is in shock at Frank going so suddenly.”

She added: “He would turn up at club meetings telling the members how many children had been to his grotto this week and he loved his job.”

Frank left school at 15 and worked as an apprentice at Bullough’s before his national service in the military police in 1958.

He then joined Burnley Police, where he received a bravery award for rescuing a man from the canal.

In the 1950s Frank played football for Helmshore United and Accrington Stanley, scoring the winning goal in the cup final for Helmshore in 1956.

In 1976 Frank moved to the Isle of Wight where he worked as a prison officer at HMP Parkhurst until his retirement in 1996, returning to Burnley in 2001 to be closer to his family.

He leaves his wife Sandra, children Ian, Michael, Leslie, also Lynn, Andrew and many grandchildren.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday, August 2 at St Andrews church in Accrington at 2pm.