TRIBUTES have poured in to a beloved shopkeeper who earned celebrity status in Pitsea as the “man who never forgot a face”.

Kirit Patel, who lived in the area for the past 37 years, was so well-loved the community rallied outside his shops on the day of his funeral, letting off balloons and paying their respects.

The 64-year-old owned both Costcutter and a smaller newsagents on Rectory Road, before leasing them out and starting work at Cellar Plus on Whitmore Way.

Mr Patel’s unexpected death sent shockwaves through both his family and the community, with his heart suddenly stopping in his sleep due to coronary heart disease.

Daughter Kinal Gadher says the family were none the wiser that Mr Patel had a health condition, besides diabetes which he kept under control.

The 37-year-old said: “It was so sudden.

“He’d came back from work and went to sleep, woke up about 7am Saturday and brushed his teeth like normal.

“He went back to bed, which mum thought was fine where it was his day off, but she just couldn’t wake him.”

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Cellar Plus have also expressed their sadness after losing Mr Patel on May 8, leaving behind four daughters and five grandchildren.

A spokesman said: “It`s so hard to hear the saddening news. You may have left us but you`ll be always in our heart.

“We miss you Kirit. May your soul rest in peace.”

While Kinal, who is from West London, feels grateful to have been able to spend a day with her dad the weekend before he passed away, in what was the family’s first meeting since lockdown.

She continued: “So many lost people in hospitals and couldn’t see their loved ones, so you could say we were lucky.

“Dad was a bubbly and kind hearted person who would do anything he could to help someone and never expected anything in return.

“He loved spending time with his family and spoiling his grandchildren, often proudly showing people photos of them.

“Anywhere he went people knew him, it was like he was a local celebrity. When his funeral hearse went by some of the shops even put their shutters down in respect.

“He was a pillar of his community, one of crickets biggest supporters and loved talking to people and making them laugh.

“No matter what he’d always remember people’s faces too, as well as what people bought and liked.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him, we are all so proud that he was our dad. We will miss him sorely.”

A Just Giving page has now been launched in honour of Mr Patel, raising money for the British Heart Foundation.