Obituary: John S Kent
Published:  08 May, 2012

COLCHESTER: John Kent, who has been a director of East Anglian building supplies company Kent Blaxill for 55 years, has died (April 21) at the age of 82 after a short illness.

A fifth generation descendant of the founder of Kent Blaxill, he was fiercely passionate about the company throughout his life, but was also heavily involved in numerous organisations in Colchester and his home village of Nayland.

He had wide interests and made many friends in all walks of life with his charm and genial manner, as well as a notable ability to remember names. He was involved in organisations ranging from the British Legion and Nayland and Wissington Conservative Association, to Colchester Rotary Club (chairman 1974-75) and Nayland Village Hall committee.

Mr Kent first joined Kent Blaxill in 1950, gaining experience in all departments before being called up to the Royal Navy for National Service, which he spent largely in the Mediterranean on anti-submarine duties with HMS Myngs.

He returned to Kent Blaxill in 1953, becoming a director in 1957, and the company’s first sales director in 1960.

At the time Kent Blaxill was based in Colchester High Street, where it suffered from endless traffic problems. Mr Kent argued for the company to move out of the town centre to a greenfield site, a controversial opinion at the time. The move eventually happened in 1963 when the company relocated to its current headquarters in Layer Road, enabling it to expand into the regional company it has become today with eight branches.

Mr Kent’s funeral was attended by many past and present staff from Kent Blaxill.

Mr Kent had been born in Colchester in 1930, the eldest of three children, who were all evacuated to Bradford during the war. He attended Colchester Grammar School and then Pangbourne College where his interest in sports resulted in him at one point running as a pacemaker for Roger Bannister during the latter’s preparations to become the first man to break the four minute mile. He was also a keen cricketer, squash and tennis player, and member of Colchester Golf Club.

After school he signed up as a cadet with Royal Mail Lines, sailing the world for three and half years.

Mr Kent was very happily married to Jean, who he had proposed to after a three-week romance, and leaves daughters Elizabeth and Hilary, as well as two grandchildren.

During his career he was a member of at least nine trade associations, including being chairman of bodies such as the Colchester and District Ironmongers and Builders’ Merchants Association, the North East Essex and Suffolk National Federation of Ironmongers, and the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers. He also developed a great interest in medieval glass.

Outside of work he was a Rotary area chairman, as well a chairman of the Colchester branch, having earlier been a Colchester Round Table chairman. He had a strong sense of duty to the community, which led to his involvement with the Colchester Old People’s Welfare Association, the YMCA Eastern Region Division Council and the University of Essex University Association.

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