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Brakes: Last surviving founder of Ashford food company Frank Brake dies aged 85

By Georgia Woolf

A prominent businessman and last surviving founder of the Brakes food distribution company has died aged 85.

Frank Brake - one of the three brothers who founded Brakes food wholesalers in Ashford - spent his final moments in the Pilgrims Hospice on his 85th birthday.

The great-grandfather - who had a respiratory disease - had been living in his home in Ball Lane, Kennington, for more than 45 years before he fell ill.

Frank Brake passed away just before Christmas (6265883)
Frank Brake passed away just before Christmas (6265883)

Brakes has grown to deliver more than 1.5 million boxes of food to over 200,000 customer sites every day.

In 2016, some 14 years after the founding family sold the company, the business was bought by US food distributor Sysco in a £2.2 billion deal.

The company found itself in the spotlight last year when Mr Brake's grandson Charlie appeared on ITV2 show Love Island.

Frank Brake was born in Holborn, London, in 1933 but spent the majority of his childhood away from his family home following the outbreak of the Second World War.

After leaving school, he enrolled on a hotel and catering management course, completed compulsory National Service in the RAF and gained experience in the hotel sector.

Frank was asked to help his older brother William, who was buying, processing and selling chickens from his pub in Swindon, one busy Christmas.

The pair saw an opportunity to increase production and Frank never returned to the hotel industry.

Frank (right) with Peter and William (6285916)
Frank (right) with Peter and William (6285916)
Mr Brake sold the Ashford-based food distribution company in 2002
Mr Brake sold the Ashford-based food distribution company in 2002
The Brake brothers (6265885)
The Brake brothers (6265885)

Brake Bros was first registered in 1958, after the three brothers decided to move to Kent and expand their business.

In 1959, Mr Brake married his wife Evelyn and had three children, Michelle, Phillip and Richard.

Years later, the company decided to stop chicken processing and concentrate on supplying a wide range of frozen foods.

The business continued to expand and became the leading distributor of foods in the UK - also expanding into France.

"He was a very strong family man, he was involved in all the local affairs and he was a wonderful father..." - Michelle Leveridge

In 2002, Frank, who was managing director of Brake Bros retired and sold the company.

In his personal life, he made significant contributions to charities, including Kent Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre and Ashford Pilgrims Hospice and played golf and tennis regularly.

Michelle Leveridge has paid tribute to her father.

She said: "He started suffering with respiratory illness around four years ago and about a month ago it got progressively worse.

Frank and Evelyn Brake (6286033)
Frank and Evelyn Brake (6286033)

"He went into the William Harvey for a couple of weeks and moved into the Pilgrims Hospice.

"He had a lovely birthday in the hospice with lots of friends and family but sadly he passed away that day.

"He was a very strong family man, he was involved in all the local affairs and he was a wonderful father.

"We're very proud of his achievements."

Mr Brake had five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Last summer, Frank's grandson featured in the popular ITV2 programme Love Island.

Charlie Brake featured in Love Island last year. Credit: ITV (2842834)
Charlie Brake featured in Love Island last year. Credit: ITV (2842834)

Charlie Brake coupled up with Ellie Brown during the fourth series, but they have since separated.

The family will hold a small private cremation followed some months later by a larger celebration which people are invited to attend.

Visit www.frankbrake.co.uk to register your interest in attending.

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