Published: 12:38, 18 October 2021
| Updated: 16:10, 18 October 2021
Michael Head was revered as a successful businessman who led a multi-million pound manufacturing company.
But he will equally be remembered for his kindness, generous charity work and passion for improving children's education.
And that was the theme that shone through at his funeral at Canterbury Cathedral last week, following his death aged 78.
In a touching eulogy, his close friend of almost 40 years and work colleague Tony McCarthy described Michael as a "a truly great man".
He praised his honourable but modest character, adding that he was firm but fair in business.
And he gave one example of how Michael gave up a considerable inheritance from his mother, varying her will to use the money for charitable causes.
Mr McCarthy was speaking to about 200 mourners, including the Lord Mayor of Canterbury and Michael's fellow Freemen of the City, at a service led by the Dean.
"I knew Michael for 39 years and must say my life was better for it," he said.
"He will remain in my memory as a truly great man who it has been an honour to know and work with for so many years."
Repeating the words from Michael's Freedom of Canterbury cititation in 2011, Mr McCarthy said the award recognised his "outstanding contribution to the city, district and county, specifically for his personal commitment and leadership in the area of education, business, parish and cultural development".
"This epitomised who Michael was - the kindest man," said Mr MrCarthy.
Michael supported the Kent Community Foundation, which helps good causes in the county.
He was especially passionate about improving children's literacy and was chairman of the Acorns charity, which supports initiatives in primary schools across Kent.
He helped many other charities across the county every year, including Catching Lives in Canterbury, which last year was awarded £10,000 to help run its Winter Shelter.
Bosses at the homelessness charity say Michael was very hands on and would regularly visit the centre in Station Road West.
"He popped in to see us fairly regularly to see how we were and to have a chat," said a spokesman.
"We will miss his visits, as will countless other charities across Kent."
"If only there were more Michael Heads in the world, it would be a far fairer place than it is today....."
He was also a supporter of Canterbury Food Bank - not just financially but as a "great encourager", says chairman of trustees Martin Ward.
"He kept frequent touch and, during the past 18 months in particular, when the charity was facing the dual challenges of unprecedented demand driven by the pandemic overlaid with having to find a new warehouse, he was particularly supportive," he said.
"If only there were more Michael Heads in the world. Were it so, quite simply, it would be a far fairer place than it is today."
Born during the Second World War, Michael grew up in a smog-filled London.
The pollution gave him chest infections, resulting in numerous visits to hospital, meaning he missed out on a lot of his early education.
He left school at 16 to go straight into his father Len's business - furniture manufacturer Crown Imperial - as it relocated to Herne Bay.
And he took over as managing director aged just 24, after his father suffered a heart attack and was advised to give up work.
Michael was highly respected in his industry, which has also paid tribute to him.
A keen Royalist, he was also delighted to be introduced to the Queen when she cut the turf for RBLI’s Centenary Village development in 2019.
In 2015, he stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business, handing its management to his son Barry, and devoted much of his time to charitable causes.
"The award of the Freedom of the City of Canterbury was an indication of the esteem in which he was held by the community...."
Speaking after the service, television producer Peter Williams said: "I had the pleasure of working with Michael on the Marlowe Theatre Trust and the Kent Community Foundation.
"He was remarkable in his generosity and his determination to complete any initiative in which he became involved.
"His early donation to the Marlowe Theatre Development Trust was crucial to a successful launch of the campaign to raise the millions of pounds we needed to support the city council's decision to build the new theatre.
"Michael gave the campaign his time, his money, his ideas and was wholly committed.
"Very early on, he also saw the advantages of channelling his philanthropy through the Kent Community Foundation, and many charities, small and big, benefited hugely from his generosity.
"Michael was as shrewd in business as he was self-effacing in public.
"The award of the Freedom of Canterbury was an indication of the esteem in which he was held by the community he served all his life."
Michael's generosity was also praised by former Canterbury MP Sir Julian Brazier, who said Canterbury Sea Cadets' move to its new HQ in Vauxhall Road could not have happened without the businessman's support.
Michael, who died on September 30 after a short illness, is survived by his widow Emma, their children Michael and Lucy, and his sons from his first marriage, Martin and Barry. He also had four grandchildren.
Lucy said: "It was a beautiful service for which we thank the Dean.
"We have been so touched by the many lovely words said and messages we have had about our dad, who was a wonderful father and will be greatly missed."