Tributes have been paid to a popular Horsham man who died while out cycling.
The funeral of Christopher John Smith, aged 53, was held at St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Horsham on Friday October 24.
He leaves a wife, Jill, 51, a daughter Jessica, 21, and a son Dominic, 12. Mr Smith also leaves two sisters, a brother, six nephews and a niece.
Mr Smith died suddenly on Saturday October 4 whilst out riding his road cycle on the Tower Hill Road, near Christ’s Hospital.
On Friday, the hearse was led from the family home in Chichester Terrace, where the family have lived since 1991, to the church on Springfield Road by Mr Smith’s cycling friends from ‘The St John’s Wheelers’, and representatives of 41 Club and Horsham Cycling Club. On arrival at the church the cyclists formed a guard of honour for the coffin (carried by Mr Smith’s six nephews) and family to process through.
The funeral was attended by seven priests: Fr Richard Biggerstaff, who left the parish only a month ago, came from Oxford to officiate. Deacon Tom Murray assisted. The Mass was concelebrated by six fellow priests who have all served St John’s parish and knew Chris well as he had been a trusted ‘MC’ (Master of Ceremonies) for the altar servers at 9am Sunday Mass for around 15 years: Fr Raglan Hay-Will came from Eastbourne; Fr Terry Martin and Fr Gerard Hatton from Crawley; Fr Peter Andrews from Woking; Fr Aaron Spinelli from Redhill and Fr Terence Bateman from Bognor Regis. There were nine altar servers, including school friends of Mr Smith’s son Dominic. Fr Raglan said he was ‘Privileged to have known a man of great integrity and an example to us all’.
The music was provided by Bernard Smith, organ; Claire O’Brien, flute, The Angel Delights vocal group and Mark Daly on guitar.
Aidan Smith, Chris’ brother, gave the Eulogy and Jill, a colour and style consultant, delivered her own personal tribute wearing a red dress for ‘courage, inner strength and stamina’.
The church was filled with mourners representing the many areas of Chris’ life: work colleagues; friends from the parish, schools and neighbourhood, Round Table and 41 Club. Family and friends travelled from as far away as Malawi, Africa, and across the UK from Cornwall, Warrington, Cumbria, Nottingham, Pembrokeshire and Hastings.
Representatives from St Wilfrid’s School, Crawley, where Dominic is in year 8, included Michael Ferry, headteacher and John Colgan, Dominic’s personal tutor, who described the funeral mass as ‘beautiful and extremely moving’.
During his 30 year career, Chris worked for BAA at Heathrow, Gatwick and central London offices and later was employed by Logica in Leatherhead and most recently Cap Gemini at Heathrow, where he was a service design and introduction manager.
His colleague Steve Aspinall said: “Chris will be missed by everyone and will be remembered as someone for whom nothing was too much trouble; a respected colleague and friend.”
In paying tribute to her husband, Jill said: “Chris was a devoted father and delighted in his children’s company and achievements. Jess recently returned from a month’s travelling in Thailand and Cambodia and is now in her final year at Reading University, studying speech and language therapy. Dominic shared his dad’s quiet and gentle manner as well as his sense of fun; his dad was so proud of his achievements at school and at gymnastics.
Last year, to mark Jill’s 50th birthday, the family enjoyed a year of celebrations. Jill explains: “My mum died when she was 53 years old and Chris’ Dad when he was 59. So I decided it was time to stop putting off all the things we’d said we’d do one day and start doing them!
“We had an amazing year: two fancy dress parties, a two week holiday in the Canadian Rockies at Easter; a summer holiday where we hired a 1969 VW camper van and went to a music festival in Kent; and a four day family pilgrimage to Rome, during which Pope Francis addressed us and said Mass in St Peter’s Square.”
Jill and Chris celebrated their silver Wedding Anniversary on July 2 this year. Jill said: “We spent a lovely three days away at Lulworth Cove in Dorset, where Chris was able to partake of his favourite things: swim in the sea, enjoy a pint of real ale in the summer sunshine, a ride on a steam train and for the two of us to spend time walking and talking in a beautiful place. In August we enjoyed a family holiday on board a canal boat on the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal and a big extended family gathering in Woking to celebrate many milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Chris’ cousin and her son came over from South Africa especially for the occasion. We have so many memories and photographs to cherish!”
The family has invited donations in tribute to Chris’ memory to the Kent, Surrey, Sussex Air Ambulance or South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, both services having responded quickly in providing emergency treatment to Chris at the roadside.
So far, donations have exceeded £1,500. Donations can be made via Freemans Funeral Directors or online at
dedicateinmem.everydayhero.com/uk/jill for the air ambulance; www.secamb.nhs.uk/contact_us/making_a_donation.aspx for SECAmb.