THE man who founded York's Richard III Museum and helped launch the careers of several comic legends when he ran a York comedy club has died, aged 55.

Father-of-two Mike Bennett had been suffering from multiple sclerosis since 2007 and bowel cancer since February last year, said his widow Janet.

She paid tribute to his bravery, and also thanked nurses who enabled him to die peacefully at his home in South Bank, last Sunday.

“Mike was kind, warm, funny and generous, and full of ideas and conversation,” she said.

“He has been described more than once this week as 'one of the good guys.'

“He was a devoted dad to his two sons, George, who is eight, and Sam, who is four, and was incredibly brave in the face of his illness. He was very positive about it and just tried to live for each day.

“I would like to thank the brilliant Macmillan/Palliative care team, the fantastic district nurses and the truly expert staff from St Leonard's Hospice at Home service, who made it possible for him to die in his own home, as he wanted.”

She said Mike, from Manchester, who leaves a sister Judith, from Stockton on Forest, had graduated from the University of York in 1980 and performed in a white reggae band called The Plainsmen.

He then worked as an attendant at the Castle Museum, ran a York walking tour and worked for print firm Pindar before, in the early 1990s, setting up and running the Comedy Shack at the Bonding Warehouse.

He asked a then unknown north-eastern comedian called Ross Noble to compere the club's shows, and the guests in his first three shows were Mark Thomas, Alistair McGowan and Jo Brand, and Lee Evans later appeared there as well, all of whom went on to become massive stars.

He and another York man, Paul Osborne, formed a comedy duo called The Two Tones, which lost in a heat at the BBC Northern New Comedy awards in Manchester to another unknown comedian, Peter Kay.

In 1993, Mike took over a small museum at Monk Bar in 1993 and turned it into the hugely successful Richard III Museum.

He wrote and performed in a show called An Audience with King Richard 111 for a decade, in which, dressed as the controversial monarch, he attempted to answer the charges made against him.

Janet said Mike continued to run the museum from home when he became too ill to go in, speaking to staff every day, until he sold it to the Jorvik Group earlier this year.

* Mike's funeral will take place at York Cemetery chapel at 11am next Monday.