TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the community’s oldest citizens after he died aged 102.

RAF veteran John Sproat, who fought alongside the men of Field Marshal Montgomery in the Second World War’s North Africa campaign, was one of the oldest residents of Sir E D Walker Homes in Darlington, which was his home for 23 years.

Sir E D Walker Homes manager Jane Reed described him as a true gentlemen who would be greatly missed by staff and fellow residents.

He died at the nursing home in Consett where he moved recently to be closer to his family and due to ill health.

Born in Mount Oswald, Durham, one of six siblings and known as John he was called up to serve in the RAF when he was 23 enjoying a distinguished career in the motorised transport section.

John spent the rest of his working career in the construction industry and, before he retired, was a maintenance man at Darlington’s Arts Centre.

Even at the age of 98 he could be seen running across Coniscliffe Road and walking into town. He was also renowned for being house proud, dressing immaculately and doing his own ironing and hand-washing.

Jane said: “He was such a true gentleman and I will really miss him. He was precious to us all and very well respected in our community. He loved living here, his bungalow, retaining his independence and also being part of the community.”

Chairman of Sir E D Walker Homes Alasdair MacConachie added: “John was such a character, charming and much-loved by everyone. He got on so well with our excellent staff and was an absolute pleasure to have as a resident.”

Two years ago Sir E D Walker Homes staged a surprise family reunion for John to mark his 100th birthday.

He was greeted by his younger sister Mary, 95, and brother Jim, 85, who he hadn’t seen for many years.

Crowds of well-wishers packed the community hall for a party organised by staff, featuring a special RAF cake and birthday card from the Queen.