A popular ice cream seller from Falmouth has died after catching coronavirus.

The funeral of Alan Hitchens took place at Truro's Penmount Crematorium earlier today, although due to coronavirus restrictions only a small number of his close family and friends, including his partner Lorina Thomas, could attend and a much larger celebration of his life will be planned later in the year.

Born and bred in Falmouth, Alan was widely known in the area, and throughout Cornwall, for his family's ice cream business Falmouth Dairy and its famous 'Jazzer' ice cream comprising a cone filled with marshmallow, topped with three scoops of ice cream, whipped cream and a choice of sprinkles.

His vans are a daily fixture at Falmouth seafront, Falmouth Docks, 'Daisy Park' on Castle Drive and Pendennis Point, where a van can be found 364 days of the year, taking only Christmas Day off.

Richard Pacy, who looked on Alan as a father figure after he began working for him aged 12 and subsequently went on to live with Alan when his parents moved away, drove one of the ice cream vans behind the hearse on the way to today's funeral.

The van proudly displayed Alan's trademark AH04 PAP number plate.

Falmouth Packet:

A tribute to Alan at his funeral today. Picture: Colin Higgs

Richard said a couple of years ago Alan had developed a heart condition and subsequently underwent a bypass, with a pacemaker fitted.

In recent months this had been playing up so he went into hospital to have it looked at. He went on to develop coronavirus and died on Monday, April 13 just seven months before his 70th birthday.

Paying tribute to Alan he said: "He's everything to me. He had no kids; he was like my dad and I was his son. He's always been there for me and is an inspiration."

Richard vowed to keep the business going in his memory.

Alan's grandfather started the ice cream business before his parents, Bernard and Sylvia, took it over and for many years also had an ice cream shop and bakery in Falmouth's Killigrew Street.

It subsequently passed over to Alan, who grew it so that at one stage there were 13 vans going out selling ice cream across the area.

Falmouth Packet:

Alan on holiday in recent years

They could always be found at local events, including Penryn Fair Day every year and during the St Day banger racing season, as well as Falmouth beaches including Swanpool and Gyllyngvase in years gone by, outside Trago Mills and Custom House Quay, and next to the King Harry Ferry.

In the past Alan and his staff would also always enter a float in Falmouth Carnival.

In recent years he has lived at Longdowns, where he also had industrial units.

Being such a seasonal business, in the winter Alan would drive a tipper truck for Ken Abraham's concrete business.

Alan spent many years as a boy at Kennack Sands on the Lizard Peninsula, where his mum used to own the cafe.

It was there that he made friends with a child that would give him links to royalty for life.

That child was Captain Mark Phillips, who went on to marry Princess Anne, and Alan would go to play on the beach with his family, with the pair staying in touch for years afterwards.

With news of Alan's death, Wendron Cricket Club - where he was a regular trader during matches at its Underlane ground - has been among those paying tribute, along with Alan's former co-worker in the 1990s, and ex partner of 12 years, Lisa Timmins.

She said: "It's the end of an era. He was so well known. We would set off from Longdowns and would drive in one big convoy - we were so proud.

"It was a hard business to be in, but the fun we had was unreal.

"He was a lovely, lovely guy. He will be dearly missed by a lot of people."

Falmouth Packet:

Alan's beloved boxer dog Sam

Lisa also told the story of Alan's beloved boxer dog Sam, who 30 years ago used to almost be as well known as Alan and even stopped him getting a parking ticket once while parked in Falmouth town centre.

"We got out to go to the bank and the dog jumped in the driver's seat. We were due a ticket from the traffic warden but he said, 'I couldn't do it to a dog'," she explained.

There are plans to combine a celebration of his life with what would have been Alan's 70th birthday on November 24, with details to be announced nearer the time.