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

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

Saturday, 2nd February 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 3:58 pm
Benny Cooney worked in the fruit and veg business for decades

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

Benny Cooney was well known in Sunderland

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

Benny Cooney

“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.

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

Benny Cooney pictured with wife Shirley

“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.