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Tributes to popular builder and one of Deal's 'finest and biggest characters' Dave Smith

A town is mourning one of its 'finest and biggest characters' who died suddenly just a week before his 50th birthday.

Dave Smith, or 'Smiffy' as he was known to his friends, would joke that he was worthy of celebrity status in Deal where he lived.

Dave Smith will be remembered as one of Deal's 'finest and biggest characters'
Dave Smith will be remembered as one of Deal's 'finest and biggest characters'

But the mass of tributes showered across social media since his passing yesterday are testament to the married father of three's genuine popularity.

The well-known builder had been married to his teenage sweetheart, Nik, for almost 30 years.

He captured her attention with a wolf whistle when he was working on a house next door to her, aged 15, and finally wooed her with a slow dance at the town's Images nightclub three years later.

She told KentOnline: "He was the kindest person I'd ever met.

"Dave was famous in Deal for just being Dave; his big smile, being out and about in his slippers or in his beloved truck, driving round town pretending to be busy.

Dave and Nik Smith met aged 15 and have been married for almost 30 years
Dave and Nik Smith met aged 15 and have been married for almost 30 years
Dave Smith once beat famous snooker player Steve David when he visited Frames in Deal in 1989
Dave Smith once beat famous snooker player Steve David when he visited Frames in Deal in 1989

"He was full of life, generous and hilariously inappropriate at times.

"He used to refer to himself as a celebrity of Deal.

"He'd love to be remembered as that!"

The couple share three children, Sam, 26, Ryan, 21, Lauren, 19 and a seven-year-old grandson, Stanley.

Mrs Smith added: "Our family cannot find the words to explain how big the hole he leaves is."

The father-of-three with his children Sam, Ryan and Lauren in years gone by
The father-of-three with his children Sam, Ryan and Lauren in years gone by

Mr Smith was born and bred in the town. He attended Parochial Primary and Deal Secondary before qualifying as a bricklayer from a Thanet college, aged 16.

His career began working on the Channel Tunnel and at 23, he continued working in the construction field with friends in Germany.

Throughout the rest of his working life he divided his time between many tunnel projects and building works, including building six houses for himself and his family. He was also involved in the construction of Matthews Close in Deal.

Mrs Smith said: "He absolutely loved his work, more so because of the social side of it, mixing with lots of people and other builders.

"He was proud of all of his work. He genuinely believed in himself and his projects."

Proud builder Dave Smith built six houses for himself and his family
Proud builder Dave Smith built six houses for himself and his family
Dave Smith working on the Crossrail project in 2012/13 Picture: Jim Gagan
Dave Smith working on the Crossrail project in 2012/13 Picture: Jim Gagan

Outside of work and when not spending time with his family, he would often be found at the betting shop or enjoying a pint or a Southern Comfort in The Forresters pub, where had a soft spot for landlady Margaret.

His generosity spilled out to the people he'd meet, with gestures such as supplying a cheeseboard for all the locals at the pub every Sunday.

He enjoyed holidays and travelling across Europe to watch games of football with his sons.

He had plans to travel more including a big holiday with friends to celebrate his 50th birthday which would have been on November 25.

Among the many tributes online, Ross Austin described him as "one of Deal's finest and biggest characters".

Dave Smith as people will remember him - out in public in his slippers!
Dave Smith as people will remember him - out in public in his slippers!

Colleague Jim Gagan, who worked with him on the Crossrail construction project in 2012/13, wrote: "I always looked forward to working with Smithy, because if he were on the job, it was going to be a good job.

"He could connect with everyone, I truly believe that everyone loved him. There was no malice in him. He lived life to its limits and always had a smile and a positive attitude."

Close friend Sarah Diamond said: "He was one of a kind. Everyone knew Dave and he would have filled 10 churches over with people wanting to give him a send off he deserved."

Funeral plans are yet to be arranged but will be at St Georges Church, where he was married, and kept in line with Covid-19 guidelines.

His family hope to hold a memorial and a wake to "match the size of his personality and celebrity status" after the pandemic.

Read more: All the latest news from Deal

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