Tributes paid to popular Sunderland greengrocer Bennet ‘Benny’ Cooney, friend to SAFC legends

Benny Cooney worked in the fruit and veg business for decades
Benny Cooney worked in the fruit and veg business for decades

Tributes have been paid to a popular greengrocer whose witty sense of humour made him a famous face in Sunderland.

Bennet Cooney, known as Benny, has been praised for his charismatic wit and his attentive nature.

Mayor, Coun George Elliott and the Mayoress with Neil Wright, a director of the the developers, Cameron Hall and stallholder Ben Cooney.

Mayor, Coun George Elliott and the Mayoress with Neil Wright, a director of the the developers, Cameron Hall and stallholder Ben Cooney.

The 83-year-old, who worked as a fruit and vegetable grocer in Sunderland for decades, died last month from a brain tumour.

His son Richard Cooney said: “He was a very well known businessman, he was in the fruit and veg industry for most of his life.

“He spent 30 years in Park Lane Market and then had a barrow which was near the train station.

“Dad was very popular and he was a big Sunderland fan and was friends with a lot of former players because of his passion for the club.”

Benny Cooney pictured with son Richard and European Boxing Champion Tommy Ward

Benny Cooney pictured with son Richard and European Boxing Champion Tommy Ward

Benny met his wife, Shirley, in 1955 at The Rink nightclub in Sunderland.

Their love blossomed and the pair married a year later and went on to have two children, Bennet, 61, and Richard, 51.

Described as a ‘fantastic’ dad and grandad, Benny has four grandchildren, Bennet, Nicholas, Georgia and Leighton.

Richard said: “He signed up for national service between the ages of 18 and 20.

Benny Cooney was well known in Sunderland

Benny Cooney was well known in Sunderland

“His family had their own newsagents so he started off as a paperboy.

“When he came back from national service he started in fruit and veg at Team Valley in Newcastle he also had a shop in Hetton.

“He’s made hundreds of friends through the business.

“He moved the business to Park Lane Market. With him being in the town centre for that many years he was very well liked for his humour. He was a very witty man.”

Benny Cooney

Benny Cooney

Benny and Shirley, who were married for 62 years, enjoyed holidays in the sun in Spain.

“They loved Benidorm, they must have went out there about 40 times,” said Richard. “It was short haul and he didn’t like long haul flights.

“His main passion was football, he travelled to away games as much as he could and he must have had a season ticket for 50 years.

“He was close friends with Gary Bennett and Bobby Kerr, it’s quite unique to be friends with two such big name players.”

Sunderland legend Gary Bennett posted a picture of himself and Benny, who lived on The Broadway, on his Facebook page, saying: “To the most genuine and funniest man going to miss our chats about SAFC.”

Having become a popular and friendly face in Sunderland, Benny retired a few years ago to care for his wife, Shirley.

Benny Cooney pictured with wife Shirley

Benny Cooney pictured with wife Shirley

“He was so funny, he was like a comedian,” said Richard.

“He always had time for people, he always had a chat with people and made them smile.

“He was a fantastic dad, I was only about ten and he managed to get tickets to the 1973 FA Cup Final.

“I was the envy of all my friends, I don’t know how he managed to get the tickets.”

Benny’s funeral will take place on Monday February 4 at 10.45am at Sunderland Minister. The wake will then be held at The Broadway, in Wavendon Crescent, from 12pm.