THE former owner of a Barton newsagents and community stalwart has died aged 71.

Barry Holden ran Holdens News, in Underhill Circus, with his wife Sue from 1981 to 2006. The couple sponsored Barton United Football Club and were also faithful sellers of the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times across some four decades.

His wife told the Oxford Mail: “He was fiercely loyal to family and friends, humble, true to his word and widely respected by everyone whose life he touched.

“This was borne out by the attendance at his funeral by many of his customers, newspaper boys and girls, colleagues, friends and family.

“He would have been really embarrassed by the impact he had on the social media circuit following his death, because he never even managed to crack the art of texting.”

Barry Holden was born in the Old Radcliffe Infirmary, in Walton Street, on February 15 1943 to parents Kath and Ray. He was the eldest of three children, with two younger sisters, Shirley and Janet, and grew up in Marston and then in Waynflete Road, Barton, from age five when the estate was being built.

As a boy he attended Bath Street Nursery School, in St Clements, then Sandhills County Primary School, followed by Wheatley Park Secondary Modern School. At that young age he worked weekends and school holidays at the Covered Market, doing deliveries of fruit and vegetables to Oxford colleges.

He left school at 15 and joined Oxford Bus Company as an apprentice at its Cowley Road garage. He would often recall an accident of driving a double-decker bus through the garage doors without opening them first, Sue said.

Mr Holden next worked at the Cowley Plant, when it was still owned by Rover, although at one stage he faced a week’s suspension for playing cards on the job.

He and Sue (nee Cripps) married in John Bunyan Baptist Church, in Crowell Road, on April 24, 1982 and went on to have their son Richard two years later.

Mr Holden had three children, Karen, David and Kim from a previous marriage.

In 1981 Mr Holden joined his wife at her newsagents in Underhill Circus, which they renamed Holdens News, and worked with her until they retired in 2006.

The couple made their shop the highest selling independent newsagent in Oxfordshire for the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times, with Mr Holden well known for asking customers: “Are you going to buy that paper or just stand and read it? It says Holdens News above the door not Holdens Library!” The shop also sponsored Barton United Football Club from its establishment in 1981. Mr Holden and his wife were made joint lifetime presidents by the club and in recent years he was vice-president of Barton Community Association.

On retiring the couple told the Oxford Mail that over 35 years they had employed some 500 paper boys and girls, all of whom they kept records of.

Mrs Holden said: “One of the retirement cards we received was from someone saying, ‘do you remember our son was a paper boy and he is now a grandfather?’ When I read that I said to Barry that it was definitely time to call it a day.”

Mr Holden was a fervent supporter of Oxford United and enjoyed years as a season ticket holder, taking his son Richard to many of the matches. He accompanied his wife to Windsor Castle in December 2008 when she was presented with an MBE.

Barry Holden died of heart failure on August 10, surrounded by his family. He is survived his wife, four children, seven grandchildren and his mother, who is 92. His funeral was held at Oxford Crematorium on August 22 and was attended by 300 people.

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