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Most members will have heard of the death of Lez Smith on the afternoon of 11 October 2014, his eightieth birthday.
He had not been well for some time after having had surgery for cancer of the jaw six years ago, but in spite of seeming to rally earlier in the month, he passed away at  St Wilfrid’s Hospice Eastbourne where he had been taken as his condition took a sudden turn for the worse.

Lez was a local man, being born in the Dicker, where his family had lived for generations. He intensely disliked Leslie, the name given him by his parents, and always insisted on the abbreviation spelt with a z. He never moved far away from the Dicker, living in Hailsham for the rest of his life. He attended primary school in Upper Dicker and the Hailsham Secondary Modern School before being called up for his national service in the Royal Artillery in 1953.
When he came out of the Army he worked in Abbott's Wood with the Forestry Commission. Then from the early 1970s until his retirement he worked for Abbott’s Joinery at Golden Cross.

In 1957 he married Susie Johnson, a Hailsham girl, and they remained happily together until she passed away in 2008. They had one son, Colin, who married Rose and they gave him two granddaughters, Nikki and Kirsty, both of whom he doted on. (Nikki has told me she is interested in continuing her grandfather’s genealogical researches.) And for his last eighteen months his great granddaughter, Annabelle, was the apple of his eye.

After retiring from regular work, Lez delighted in accompanying Colin to aviation
displays and fairs around the country. He was the author of two books on the history of The Dicker, the drafts of which he wrote out in longhand as he was always uncomfortable with computers. Lez was very proud when the first book came out. As he said at the time - “I might just as well blow my own trumpet”. He was however a bit anxious about an iniital print run of 1,000 – but they all went, although we obtained some and both books are still available from the society.

Lez was always very interested in military history, medals and the men behind them and loved this branch of research. He had many of these medals mounted in frames with their complete history and sometimes even photos of the soldier. As a result of this interest and when his health permitted he often held a military help desk on meeting nights and workshops where he was a friendly source of much knowledge.

He joined Family Roots at the outset and was at the inaugural meeting of the society in May 1986 when 32 people attended, he being member No. 27. He joined the committee in 1991 and served as Chairman for 14 years from April 1994 to April 2008, the year he was diagnosed with cancer. His reaction was, in his own words: ‘Well we will just get on with it and fight it.’ This gives a glimpse of his determined character.

Lez took his position as Chairman very seriously. He was always nervous at the AGM and in 2004 there was some unfortunate heckling from the floor after he had closed the meeting, which made him feel badly. So badly in fact that he wrote to the Committee suggesting he should resign. He later changed his mind, much to our relief. He was aware of his appearance and was always the best-dressed man in the room at meetings He also attended our Christmas party and was there with us in 2013 as usual.

As Chairman, Lez was not formal and had a light touch. He would start the meeting with a little routine which required the response of the membership: “Evening all” response “Evening Lez” “Nice to see you” response “To see you nice”. I’m sure Bruce Forsyth didn’t mind.

When chairing committee meetings he was always efficient, but apart from the benefit of his input we, the Committee, always had the added bonus of Susie’s cooking as she
invariably sent him out to these meetings with a supply of small cakes or cookies to go with our tea and coffee. She also produced sausage rolls as part of the food contribution at the Christmas party.

After his resignation as Chairman, Lez accepted the posi.on of Vice President of the society, a position previously held by the late Phyl Webb, and when the following year Father Peter Ball resigned as President, Lez was offered this position, which he also
accepted. As President he seemed to overcome his nervousness about the AGM as he would volunteer a few introductory remarks at the start before leaving the running of the meeting to his successor.
Lez was the longest serving Chairman Family Roots has ever had and the only person to have been Chairman, Vice President and President.
He leaves a large Lez-shaped hole in our society and we shall miss him.

1934 -2014

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