Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Graham Smith, structural engineer and fun-loving sportsman

Graham Smith, structural engineer and fun-loving sportsman

GRAHAM SMITH died tragically on Sunday, December 30 while out rowing on the River Thames at Henley. He was 62.

Graham, a member of Upper Thames Rowing Club, was a fun-seeking, strong man, who was a free spirit and loved life.

He was born in 1956 in Newark, Nottinghamshire, where he spent his childhood before moving to Cardiff to study civil engineering at university and then going on to become a structural engineer.

Graham’s enjoyment of rowing started at a young age and as a student at Cardiff he represented Wales in the home internationals, including competing at Athlone in Ireland.

He moved to Haywards Close, Henley, when he was 22, and working in Reading for Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners.

Graham joined Henley Rowing Club in the Seventies and represented them twice at Henley Royal Regatta — in the Silver Goblets for coxless pairs and the Wyfold Cup for coxless fours.

When competing in the qualifiers of the Silver Goblets, he raced in one of the only recorded dead-heats at the regatta, resulting in a re-row, which he lost by a few feet. Graham then went on to row for Upper Thames Rowing Club.

It was in Henley that he met his wife Christine Cox, the daughter of the Henley town sergeant Stan Cox.

The couple met at Henley Badminton Club and later joined Chiltern Edge Badminton Club where Graham became captain of the men’s B side and the mixed C team. In 1982, Graham and Christine were married in St Mary’s Church in Henley and the same year moved to Saudi Arabia and then Oman for Graham’s work.

Christine fell pregnant with their daughter Rebecca and returned to England, where their son Richard soon arrived. The couple separated in 1993.

In 2000 Graham moved to Stoke Row where he became a key figure in the village, arranging many social events. He instigated the much-loved annual Boxing Day walk, even roping in his mother Joan to serve mulled wine and mince pies.

As a competitive tennis player, he took on the role of chairman at the village club, arranging fixtures, tournaments and many social events.

Graham played cricket for Ipsden Cricket Club between 2000 and 2006 and took on the responsibility of tour secretary from 2002  to 2005, once again demonstrating his fun, sociable side.

Unfortunately, he was not as successful at cricket as he was at rowing, being awarded the “Mallard” trophy for the most scores of zero in 2003 and 2006.

Graham created Graham Smith Associates in 2002, his own structural engineering business, and worked very hard to make it a success. He amassed a customer portfolio that stretched across the country and took pride in working with others to create their ideal homes and extensions.

As rowing was a lifelong passion, Graham attended Henley Royal Regatta each year, which became a highlight of the year for family and friends lucky enough to join him in the stewards’ enclosure.

More recently, he rejoined Upper Thames, where he would row as part of the silvertops squad and socially in a mixed boat, rowing three or four times a week.

He also represented Upper Thames in the prestigious Voga Longa marathon event in Venice for the last two years and became close friends with many fellow members of the club.

Graham leaves his two children and an enormous amount of friends who loved him as though he was family.

Athough he was taken too young, comfort can be found in that his last moments involved him doing something he enjoyed so much, stroking a rowing quad looking out at the River Thames at Henley with his silvertop friends.

The funeral arrangements will be published in next week’s Henley Standard.

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