Published: 16:00, 04 December 2018
| Updated: 16:26, 04 December 2018
The chairman of a cargo company based in Lympne has died after a short battle with cancer.
John Smith, chairman of Laser Transport International Ltd, passed away at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital at the age of 83.
The businessman built up and ran the company for over 45 years, employing 125 staff across its offices in Lympne, Coventry and Swindon.
Mr Smith was born in 1935 and attended The Harvey Grammar School, Folkestone.
He went on to become a lifelong supporter of the school and a governor in his later years.
He studied for and passed the Institute of Freight Forwarders examinations and worked for LEP Livestock in the Folkestone office, before going on to be office manager of LEP Dover in the early 1970s when Dover was rapidly expanding as a ferry port.
In 1973, Mr Smith started Laser Transport International Ltd in Dover after seeing a gap in the market.
In addition to customs clearance, the company had strong interests in the automotive sector, arranging the importation of new cars from Europe via dedicated trains to Calais, where the cars were batched for shipment on car ferries to Dover.
In 1979, the company was invited to tender for the transport of the Marecs series of spacecraft and won the contract with Mr Smith's attention to detail into the submission.
The company remains active in the space sector to this day.
Company spokeswoman Nagina Atwell said: "John was a respected figure in the industry, regarded as a leader and gentleman by customers, partners and staff alike, always demonstrating an enthusiastic hands-on interest in the business, and a firm believer in the value of independent companies in today’s global market.
"John quietly touched the lives of many with his kindness and respect.
"He was a such a caring, friendly man and a very snappy dresser!
"There remains a great sadness in the office - we lost one of life’s true gentlemen and he will be remembered always."
He leaves his daughter Amanda and grandson Jamie.