Tributes to Scout leader who was 'life of the party' after death aged 69

Roger Smith, 69, pictured with one of his dogs Ben on a walking holiday in the Lake District. 

Roger Smith, 69, pictured with one of his dogs Ben on a walking holiday in the Lake District. - Credit: Smith family

A father-of-two who played a huge role in the Stowmarket community and was "the life of the party" according to his daughter has sadly died just before his 70th birthday.

Roger Smith, who was known in the town through his role in adult social care and working as a Scout leader, died on Wednesday, February 24 after suffering from cancer.

Roger Smith and wife Jill Smith from Stowmarket

Roger Smith, 69, and wife Jill Smith from Stowmarket. - Credit: Smith family

The 69-year-old was diagnosed with kidney cancer a few years ago and was thought to be clear of the disease after having the organ removed, but tragically it returned and spread to his spine and liver.

He became wheelchair bound from September last year, having spent most of his life outdoors and being adventurous through his involvement with Scout groups and love of walking.

Mr Smith was born in Hayes in west London in 1951 and joined the RAF at 18. He was posted to RAF Wattisham in his early 20s where he worked as a mechanic.

Roger Smith from Stowmarket has tragically died at the age of 69. Here he is pictured with wife Jill Smith, daughter...

Roger Smith (pictured left) has tragically died at the age of 69. Here he is pictured with wife Jill Smith, daughter Justine Norfolk, her husband Steve Norfolk and his grandchildren Ella and Jack Norfolk. - Credit: Smith family

While working at the Suffolk RAF base, Mr Smith met his wife Jill at Barking Hall stables, where she worked with horses.

The pair married in 1973 and moved to Stowmarket, where they spent 47 happy years together.

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They brought up two children; Justine Norfolk, 43, and Philip Smith 41, and had many happy Scouting holidays as a family.

Roger Smith from Stowmarket pictured with his daughter Justine on her wedding day.

Roger Smith pictured with his daughter Justine on her wedding day. - Credit: Smith family

Mrs Norfolk described her dad as being "kind, intelligent and having a wicked sense of humour".

"He was such a wonderful dad and grandad and a loving husband to my wonderful mum," she said.

"He was always so positive and full of hope even towards the end.

"He was the life and soul of the party and along with mum was always the first one on the dancefloor."

One of Mr Smith's roles was being leader of the 1st Combs Scout group in Stowmarket, where he founded the Combs Ford Duck Race which began more than 30 years ago and continues to be one of the group's biggest fundraisers.

Roger Smith (right) with son Philip Smith on holiday in Cyprus.

Roger Smith (right) with son Philip Smith on holiday in Cyprus. - Credit: Smith family

As a child Mrs Norfolk fondly remembers her garage being rammed full of hundreds of yellow rubber ducks and her dad writing numbers on the bottom of them in preparation for the event.

She also recalls her dad telling her about the time he ran the first ever Ipswich marathon in 1983, just after the Orwell Bridge opened.

After leaving the RAF as a mechanic, Mr Smith partnered with a friend to start their own company called Ipswich Engineering, which he helped run for more than five years.

Roger Smith pictured lining up the rubber ducks for the annual Combs Ford Duck Race. 

Roger Smith pictured lining up the rubber ducks for the annual Combs Ford Duck Race. - Credit: Smith family

He then moved away from engineering to adult social care, where he stayed for more than 20 years working his way up until his retirement. He then continued to work in this area with individuals on a self-employed basis. 

Outside of his work, Mr Smith enjoyed an annual trip to the Lake District with his group of friends who called themselves 'the old boys' and was described by his daughter as a huge people person.

One of Mrs Norfolk's favourite memories of her dad was at a family BBQ for her husband's 40th birthday, where she found him sat in the playhouse surrounded by all the children with a beer in his hand. 

Roger Smith from Stowmarket, pictured with his wife of 47 years Jill Smith, has sadly died at the age of 69

Roger Smith, pictured with his wife of 47 years Jill Smith, has sadly died at the age of 69. - Credit: Smith family

He was known for being the "life and soul" of the party and was a devoted grandfather to Mrs Norfolk's two children, who he loved dearly. 

Mr Smith also took part in a number of pantos and musicals with the Stowmarket Operatic & Dramatic Society, where he enjoyed playing bass guitar. He loved his music and supported his son Phil, also a guitarist, attending numerous local gigs.

He kept his own bees and Mrs Norfolk said her dad was "very hands-on", encouraging his children to appreciate nature and the environment and do outdoor activities from a young age.

Rob Smith, from Stowmarket, pictured with wife Jill Smith and their two grandchildren Jack and Ella.

Rob Smith, from Stowmarket, pictured with wife Jill Smith and their two grandchildren Jack and Ella. - Credit: Smith family

She said: "He was very laidback, and he was so caring.

"He was also a loving grandad to my two children Jack and Ella, and he enjoyed going on lots of family holidays with us.

"We will all miss him so much."

Roger Smith (second from left) enjoyed annual holidays to the Lake District with friends Martin Yates (far left), Bob...

Roger Smith (second from left) enjoyed annual holidays to the Lake District with friends Martin Yates (far left), Bob Halls and Finter Rose (far right), who nicknamed themselves 'the old boys'. - Credit: Smith family

Mr Smith also leaves behind his sister Margaret Smith and his mum Betty Smith, who is aged 97 and lives in Buckinghamshire.

His family has asked for any donations to be made to St Elizabeth Hospice, which cared for Mr Smith before Christmas.

His funeral will take place On Monday, March 29 at Seven Hills Crematorium in Ipswich, but is invitation only due to current restrictions. 

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