TRIBUTES have been paid to a florist and ‘driving force of the retail community’ who died suddenly at the weekend.

Gail Usher, 53, who ran House of Flowers, in Frank Street, Barnoldswick, died in her sleep at her home in Whalley on Friday night.

Miss Usher, who was a leading member of the Chamber of Trade and Rotary club in the town, recently celebrated the 20-year anniversary of opening the shop by giving away daffodils to customers.

Her shop was renowned for its window displays which celebrated occasions such as St George’s Day or Valentines.

She had been a florist since 1976 and was student of the year two years running during her training in Wakefield, Manchester and London. Miss Usher established House of Flowers in 1992 and also did freelance work which took her to Hong Kong, Belgium, Iceland, Portugal, Italy and the USA.

She enjoyed driving sports cars and rode a Harley Davidson motorbike, as well as playing tennis and attending dance classes.

Friend Heather Demaine, 52, said that Miss Usher had a ‘warm personality and a quirky sense of humour’.

“Barnoldswick town square just won’t be the same without Gail,” she said. “She had a word for everyone and cared deeply about the town and its people.”

Coun David Whipp said Miss Usher was ‘an integral part of Barnoldswick’s tight-knit retail community’.

He added: “Gail will be sadly missed. She was thought of with affection by all in the town.”

MP Andrew Stephenson said: “I always enjoyed popping into Gail’s shop. A tragic loss of a true campaigner and a lovely person.”