Charity worker Derek Russell Hunnisett dies at home in Lewes

DEDICATED Sussex charity worker Derek Russell Hunnisett has died peacefully at his home near Lewes after a short illness. He was 79.

The passing of the sportsman, philanthropist and businessman was described as a “sad day” for Sussex.

Mr Hunnisett, of Beechwood Lane, Cooksbridge, was the former chairman of the Hanningtons department store in Brighton.

He was a deputy Lord Lieutenant for East Sussex and was awarded an OBE in 2007 for his services to charity.

He was involved with Sussex charities for more than 40 years, including The Argus Appeal and the Martlets Hospice in Hove, where he was a director for several years.

Mr Hunnisett was also a member of the development council of the University of Sussex and a supporter of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

He started his career as a barrister and became involved in buying property in London with his father Charles.

In the 1960s he diversified into retailing and when the famous Hanningtons store hit financial trouble he stepped in. The store traded successfully until 2001.

He was a lover of astronomy, a black belt in judo, a racehorse owner and a steward at Brighton Racecourse for more than 20 years.

Mr Hunnisett’s family said in a statement: “We are absolutely devastated to have lost a loving husband and devoted father. We shall miss him desperately.

“He was also a much-respected philanthropist and supportive of local issues and local people.”

Martlets Hospice chairman Roger French said: “We owe him a huge debt of gratitude over the years. He will be very much missed.

“He was a very unassuming man who did a huge amount behind the scenes.”

Peter Field, the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, said: “Derek was a great philanthropist and a terrific supporter of institutions like the University of Sussex.

“He was very quiet about what he did but he supported many local charities and I was delighted when he was awarded the OBE for services to charity.”

Mr Hunnisett leaves a widow, Ellen, and six children, Geraldine, Caroline, Lindy, Richard, Katy and Clem.

The funeral service takes place today (Friday) at St Peter’s Church, Offham (12.45pm). Family flowers only, but donations if desired for the Martlets Hospice can be sent to Nigel Dengate Funeral Service, 4/6 Montefiore Road, Hove, BN3 1RD.