A CABINET maker who twice met Pope John Paul II has died, aged 81.

George Pearce, of Victoria Road in Pleasington, Blackburn, was well known for his bespoke furniture and 40 years of volunteer work with West End Catholic Youth Club.

Son Frank, who now runs the family firm George Pearce & Sons, said hundreds of East Lancashire homes contain his hand-made cabinets, tables and chests of drawers.

The dad-of-four also made dozens of bars for Thwaites pubs and Shire Hotels.

Mr Pearce was apprenticed to Harris & Partington in 1946, after leaving school at the age of 14.

He bought the firm in 1959 and later changed the name when his sons Frank and Gerard became partners. His workshop was in Oswald Street until 1985, and then Weir Street.

Frank, 51, said: “Cabinet making was his great love and he worked five-and-a-half days a week until he was 75. He would even spend his weekends in his shed on a lathe, turning table legs.

“He did expand the business a bit, but kept it as a family firm with five or six employees.

“Everything was made by hand and he was renowned in the area for his skill. There wasn’t really anyone else who was doing it, as most people were buying imported chip-board furniture.

“He saw all that as inferior and still worked with solid timbers.”

In the 1960s, Mr Pearce began his work with West End Catholic Youth Club, off Penny Street, where he later became chairman. And it was this volunteer work which led him to meet Pope John Paul II during visits to the Vatican City, in 1984 and 2005.

The lifelong Blackburn Rovers fan was also a regular at Pleasington Priory and a longstanding member of The Knights of Saint Columba, a Catholic fraternal service.

He had been ill for some time and died of suspected kidney failure on February 5, leaving wife Bertha, sons Gerard, Frank and David, daughter Jeanette, and six grandchildren.

His funeral will be at Pleasington Priory at 10.30am tomorrow.

George Pearce & Sons is now based at Whitebirk Industrial Estate.