Positive, tenacious, loved by everyone and a great friend and supporter to the industry are just some of the words used to describe Colin Tophill following news he has passed away.
Colin died on January 6, shortly before his 90th birthday, following a period of ill health. He leaves behind Doreen, his wife of 56 years, children Samantha and Julian, and his grandchild, Troy, born less than two months ago.
Colin joined the health food industry in the 1960s, having already worked as a rep, where he met Doreen when he called on a store that her father ran. Colin was an instrumental figure in establishing the Health Food Institute and served as Chairman of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) from 1984-1987.
In later years, Colin set up the Tophill Tournament, an annual industry golf day that gathered people from all sides of the industry for a great day of golf and networking, and he was passionate about the event each year.
Paula Tapley, a close friend of Colin, who supported him every year in the golf day, told Health Food Business: “Having been a friend of Colin’s for 30 years, I was always amazed at how creative he was. He relished in taking on a new challenge and would never give up! He remained positive and tenacious and was always ‘thinking outside the box’. He was the ultimate problem-solver and some of the foundations that we have in the industry today were inspired by Colin.”
Also paying tribute was Graham Keen, Executive Director at the HFMA, who commented: “Colin, who was a great stalwart, friend and supporter of the industry and one of the founding fathers of the HFMA, was much loved by everyone who had the pleasure to have been in his company. Aside from his many leading industry roles within the Booker/Brewhurst/Holland & Barrett empire, Colin served as Chair of the HFMA from 1984 to 1987, and after his retirement served as Membership Secretary for the HFMA, working closely alongside the then Director, Penny Viner.
“Colin was the very deserved recipient of the HFMA’s Award of Honour, this industry’s most prestigious award, in 1998. More recently, many will know Colin from his organisation for the last 25 years or so of the industry’s annual golf day, known as the Tophill Tournament, and this year’s event on June 10 was to have coincided with Colin’s milestone 90th birthday. Colin was also a very accomplished artist, with his own gallery, and I was one of many who relished receiving his annual Christmas card featuring one of his paintings.
“I’m sure that everyone will join me in offering our sincerest condolences to Colin’s lovely wife of 56 years, Doreen, his steadfast supporter throughout his magnificent life, and their children, Samantha and Julian. It is also very heartening to know that Colin was able to spend some time with his first grandchild, Troy, who arrived just five weeks ago.”
Ray Hill also knew Colin well, having worked with him over many years, especially in their work with the Health Food Institute.
“Colin was a kind and unflappable man, with a keen sense of humour, and he will be sadly missed,” he said.
Ray recalled that Colin entered the health food industry with a high reputation as an old school grocer in the late 1960s and went on to be a huge supporter of the health food industry. He managed Brewhurst Health Food Supplies, Britain’s largest health food wholesaler, from the day he entered the industry until the day he retired.
“During all those years, his amiable approach made him many friends. He established Realfare, effectively a buying group, to give health food retailers the professional know-how and promotional materials to build their businesses,” Ray recalled.
Colin was appointed Founder Fellow of the Health Food Institute and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years.
Ray added: “So gifted in all of the various roles he undertook, none surpassed his role as Master of Ceremonies during our more formal years at the Annual Seminar and Lunch, which year after year, thanks to his able control, passed without a hitch. When he reached the age of retirement, he was presented with an engraved silver salver acknowledging his 15-year contribution to the Institute’s work and was awarded an Honorary Life Fellowship in May 2000. Retirement did not stop him from attending future HFI events, until illness made it too difficult.”
And David Cann, Managing Director at Target Publishing, which is a long-time supporter of the Tophill Tournament, commented: “We were so very sad to hear of the passing of Colin, someone we considered
a great friend to Target Publishing. We had worked with Colin for many years to support the golf day, an event he put so much of his time into so that he could bring the industry together.
“A hugely loyal person, he contributed so much to the industry over so many years and his passing will be felt by many. The team at Target extend our condolences to Doreen, his family and all those who knew and loved him.”