He was one of Sunderland’s great success stories.
Now the city has been illuminated in memory of John Hays.
The businessman, and founder of Hays Travel, died earlier this month at the age of 71 after collapsing at the firm’s head office.
Now several iconic landmarks around Sunderland have been lit up in his firm’s colours of orange and blue.
At dusk on Tuesday, Northern Spire bridge, Penshaw Monument, Fulwell Mill, Seaburn Lighthouse, Hylton Castle, Beacon of Light and Keel Square outside the company’s HQ, at Gilbridge House, Keel Square, were lit to mark the passing of a man dubbed ‘Mr Sunderland’.
The same will happen on Wednesday, when the funeral of Mr Hays will take place.
An online book of condolences has been set up for a man who was “loyal and committed” to the city.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller said: “It was a shock to so many people to hear of John’s death. It’s fitting that we look to a visible tribute and with a book of condolences there is the opportunity to mark his passing in words.
“John was always deeply loyal and committed to Sunderland and the North East region and we thank him for that. I know many other people feel the same, and he was loved and admired by many people in the city and beyond.”
In the immediate aftermath of his death, the firm said Mr Hays had died while “doing the job he loved”.
He’d built the firm from scratch, starting it in his mum’s kid’s clothing shop before it expanded into the UK’s biggest independent travel retailer.
Business leaders branded him a “giant” following his passing, while Sunderland AFC legends Peter Reid and Niall Quinn joined TV stars George Clarke and Steph McGovern in remembering his legacy.
Since then, over £22,000 has been raised on behalf of the Hays Travel Foundation.
The charity creates opportunities for youngsters to help them achieve their potential and is deemed one of his “proudest achievements”.
Since his passing, the firm has appointed a new leadership team.