Banker Keith Owen leaves Sidmouth £2.3m and a 'million flowers'

image captionKeith Owen left his entire savings to the Sid Vale Association

A Devon town is planting 153,000 bulbs after a Canadian investment banker left his £2.3m fortune and a dying wish of a "million flowers".

Keith Owen regularly visited Sidmouth where his mother lived, and planned to retire there.

However, in 2007, at the age of 69, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he had weeks to live.

Mr Owen decided to leave his entire savings to a Sidmouth-based voluntary countryside conservation society.

In May 2007, Mr Owen contacted the Sid Vale Association (SVA) and told them he wished for his money to be used to "support local projects, which made use of voluntary labour, and in particular to sustain the ambience and way of life, recognised in Sidmouth and its surroundings".

The SVA said Mr Owen "felt Sidmouth reflected England as it used to be".

Handel Bennett, from the SVA, said: "One of his dying wishes was to have a million flowers planted in the town."

The town is now in the first phase of the operation and Mr Bennett said the process would take "a few years to complete".

The 153,000 snowdrops, daffodils, and crocus bulbs worth £166,000 will be planted at over 50 sites.

'Really thrilled'

Mr Owen was born in 1938 in nearby Totnes and educated at Montpelier Preparatory School, Paignton.

He married in 1970 but this lasted only a few years and he had no children.

In 1976, after 20 years of RAF service, he retired with the rank of Squadron Leader and set up home in Ottawa, Canada.

image captionJohn Hollick from Sidmouth town council said the planting would take "a few years to complete".

In 2007, Mr Owen found out that he had a terminal illness and died on December 3, 2007 in the Victoria Hospital, Sidmouth.

He had initially set aside his retirement fund, with the intention of spending it based in Sidmouth.

"At the end of his days he decided in his will that his money should be made available for the benefit of the community," the SVA said.

John Hollick, Sidmouth town council chairman said Mr Owen was a "very nice chap, a very unassuming fellow and he really did love Sidmouth".

He added: "The town council and everyone involved is really thrilled about this and it helps to bring the community together."

Mr Bennett, from the SVA, said: "We have got a lot of voluntary groups and people within the community, which is exactly what Keith would have wished - that people get together to do something for their own town."

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