School mourns death of its 'granddad'
Ashley Smeith was like a granddad to the 107 pupils at Selwyn's Ladbrooks School.
The school community is mourning the death of a member of their family after 64-year-old Smeith died of a heart attack last week.
Ladbrooks School principal Sean Bailey said Smeith, who worked as a caretaker and cleaner at the school, was a "big part" of the children's lives.
"They always looked up to him. He commanded a great deal of respect. He was a father figure to our staff, and in many ways like a grandfather to the students."
Smeith became involved with the school just before the February 2011 earthquake and it quickly became an important part of his life.
"He had really good values and he was just a really great person," Bailey said.
"Staff, students and parents related easily to him because he always made an effort to get know others. He . . . will leave a big gap in our lives."
Smeith became a grandfather for real when daughter Melissa Fagg, 33, gave birth to her first child two weeks ago.
"He did get to meet her. He was so proud, proud as punch," she said.
Smeith had been at his daughter's house when he experienced the fatal heart attack.
"It was very sudden. It's going to be a big hole in our lives," Fagg said.
Smeith was farewelled at a funeral service at the Harewood Crematorium on Wednesday.
Bailey said the school's pupils had created a "special book of memories" to give to Smeith's wife, Lesley, and the school was looking at holding an event next week to celebrate his life.