Obituary - Past President - Frank Brake 1933 - 2018

Sat, Dec 22nd 2018 at 1:00 am - 1:00 am

Francis Robert Brake (Frank) 1933 - 2018

Francis Robert Brake – Frank to us all, was born in 1933 in Holborn, London. The son of publicans, he was the middle of the three older Brake brothers (William, Frank and Peter – Paul being born after the war). Their early lives were disrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939, requiring the brothers to be evacuated from London and separated from their parents for the majority of the war.

Out of necessity, they become strongly independent and self-reliant, the boys attending various wartime schools (in Worthing, Ealing & Banbury) until their final school years at the Licensed Victuallers School, then in Slough. Some decades later he and his brothers marked their gratitude to the LV school by the building of a 6th Form centre.

After leaving school Frank enrolled on a course in Hotel and Catering Management at Borough Polytechnic – now South Bank University. In recognition of his subsequent business achievements Frank was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at the University in 2012 and his Frank Brake scholarship programme has sponsored many deserving students.

In 1952, Frank served his compulsory National Service in the RAF, initially as a trainee pilot, and then being posted to London and then Cardington, in Bedfordshire. In 1954 he subsequently resumed his training in hotel management, working in all rôles at hotels in Lancashire and London (The Park Lane Hotel no less) and experienced the highs and lows of all aspects of hotel life. He was always aware how hard some people’s lives could be, and consequently was always determined to treat people with the utmost respect and compassion and to help others.

His older brother William was by now running a pub in Swindon and on the advice of a local farmer they were also buying, processing and selling chickens. Frank was asked to help out during one busy Christmas and whilst there, they all saw an opportunity to increase this production and he never returned to the hotel business. Working all hours, it was hands on, and sometimes unpleasant work, with little or no mechanisation but eventually, joined by younger brother Peter, they grew out of their town centre premises and moved to Kent.

After some lean times and extremely hard work, their poultry packing business began to grow and the first fledgling Brake Bros (Poultry Packers) business was registered in 1958, supplying chickens to pubs, restaurants and hotels. They also soon started to supply freezers and frozen foods.

In 1972 a decision was made to stop chicken processing and concentrate on supplying a much wider range of frozen foods. Brake Bros are widely acknowledged for changing the food landscape in British pubs and restaurants.

Innovative products, rapid expansion and a strong focus on high quality, efficient procedures and advanced IT systems ensured Brake Bros grew rapidly in the UK and also into France. It became the leading distributor of foods in the UK, with a sophisticated network of rapid distribution centres and an enviable reputation for reliability.

Travelling Great Britain and visiting the Brakes Sales and Distribution centres was a key part of keeping him in touch with life at the coal-face for Frank and these “Royal Tours” as they became known were looked forward to by all concerned as whilst he was the MD, he was also a very personable and humorous chap with whom to deal. Andrew Murray related a story about Brakes who had just opened a million cubic foot cold store in Swindon with mobile racking that moved pallet upon pallet of frozen products at about 2 mph along a sort of internal rail system. Pressing a button started very robust electric motors move a rack about 70 feet long and 30 feet high containing 300 pallets. Watching 10 rows of wall-to-wall chips slowly following one another looked rather like something out of Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

A highly successful public flotation was achieved in 1986, permitting further expansion, acquisitions and success. Sadly Peter died unexpectedly in 1989 and William’s health also declined, leaving Frank as Managing Director to run the business. When Frank retired and the company was sold in 2002, Brakes were a leading food supplier to the food service industry in the UK, with a comprehensive range of products and was also a leading national supplier of chilled and frozen food in France, with a turnover of £1.5bn and employing over 9000 people.

In his personal life, Frank made significant contribution to charities, both through generous personal donations, through his Charitable Trust, and with personal project involvement. Major involvements included project leadership and matched funding for the building of the Kent Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre, significant contributions to Parkinson’s UK and Cure Parkinson’s, Ashford Pilgrim’s Hospice, and many smaller local charities in Kent, where Frank lived for well over 50 years, and remains very well-known and intensely involved in local life.

He also spent much of his time in London, a city he loved, both in his working and personal life, attending conferences, talks, galleries, concerts and dinners. A vibrant city which reflected his thirst for knowledge, his energy and enthusiasm for life!

A lifelong Arsenal supporter, he was always a passionate sports fan; rowing, cricket, soccer and continued to play golf and tennis regularly well into his senior years. He married his wife Evelyn in 1959 and has three children, Michelle, Phillip and Richard.

He placed great emphasis on family strength, creating and supporting initiatives for young people to work hard, better themselves and to create and take opportunities in their lives, values which he always encouraged in his grandchildren and beyond. 

Not content with heading a multimillion pound business, he also found time to become

§  President of the British Frozen Food Federation,

§  Entrepreneur of the Year (South East finalist),

§  Honorary Fellow of London South Bank University,

§  A Freeman of the City of London

§  A Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts

§  Chairman of Ashford Round Table in its 25th year,

§  President and long serving member of Ashford Rotary Club. He was President in the same year as the Company was floated and a Patron of the British Library.

His interests in supporting Charity, Politics, Sport, London life and his family are legendry and his firm belief in effective communication and the inspiration of others are attributes not always found in leaders today, but aren’t we all glad we could count on him as a friend and fellow member.

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22nd June 7.30 pm St Mary's Church Ashford Centre

President Renate being presented with the latest Imago Brochure by Fundraising and Development manager, Fiona Cottingham

Fiona Cottingham shows the Club the broad range of support services from Imago

The New Venue

We will move our meetings to The Ashford Holiday Inn North from 25th March.

President Renate presented with Imago Brochure by Fiona Cottingham

Fiona Cottingham reveals the amazing work of the Imago organisation

Heidi Young and Gemma Lawson from Dads Unlimited are presented with a cheque 
by Rotary President, Renate

Heidi Young and Gemma Lawson reveal latest developments in the work of the Charity

Renate Welcomes new member Pieter

Pieter welcomed as a new Member

Club President, Renate presents Towers School pupil, Megan Tasker with the First Prize Certificate for the local level of the ‘Young Writer of the Year’

Towers Pupil wins local heats

The Mayor of Ashford with President Renate

Mayor Larry Krause told us about his early life in Australia and how he now supports local Charities: 'The Friends of William Harvey' and 'Men in Sheds'

Ashford Mediation Service

Sandy, Chairman of AMS, and Tessa, Mediator, introduced their work to the club

President Renate welcomes Sally into the Club

On 22nd January, we were delighted to welcome Sally Lees as a new Associate member

President Renate and member (and Treasurer) Stuart McRae

Member Stuart McRae tells the Club abut his life and the lucky breaks that have helped him and his wife through a successful and happy life.

The Mayor of Ashford, Cllr Callum Knowles, Ashford Rotary President, Amanda Cottrell and Leader of the Council, Cllr. Gerry Clarkson open the shelter

The Rotary Club of Ashford's Community Shelter at Conningbrook Lakes Country Park was opened today.

Kristina and Akeem at Umtha Welanga

On Monday 10th January, following a frugal supper, PP Kitty Brook, her granddaughter, Kristina, and Kristina's partner, Akeem, gave a talk on 'Malcolm's Soup Kitchen'.

Tyne Cott Cemetery, Belgium

John Harris spoke of the work of the CWGC

Peter Gammon

Rtn Peter Gammon spoke on Criminal Law


On Sunday 26th June we ran a Charity Cream Tea Party for around 100 people in aid of President Liz's chosen Charities -'Canine Helpers' and 'Kent MS Therapy Centre'. Thanks to all who helped make it a memorable afternoon.

President Liz with Maxine Lucas

The Club learnt of the support given to the hearing impaired by HI Kent

President Liz receives the cheque

President Liz Stuart-Smith received a cheque for £600.00 from the Ashford Muslim Association

Destruction caused by earthquake

The Rotary Club of Ashford join partners to collect for earthquake victims


The new Interact Club of Towers School is now up and running.

Paul Mott of McArthurGlen, Rotary President Renate Beerling, and the Mayor of Ashford, Larry Krause. Over £1,000 was made for Charity.

McArthurGlen Management teams up with the Rotary Club of Ashford to raffle prizes freely donated by many retailers at the Outlet Centre.


Liz recognised for terrific year despite adversity

Lilia with some of her collection and President Liz Stewart-Smith.

We were delighted on Monday night with a talk by 12 year old Lilia who explained the meanings of Ichimatsu Ningyo, Hina Ningyo, Daruma Ningyo, Kokeshi Ningyo and Gosho Ningyo; various forms of Japanese Doll.

Sophie received her award from Rtn. Steve Parkin (left), also present are Rtn. Jean Shrubb and Towers School Principal Richard Billings

Sophie's entry, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ashford, took first place at National level in the Rotary Young Photographer Competition.

Outgoing President Amanda Cottrell hands over to incoming President Liz Stuart-Smith

Roles are handed to new officers


Old friends say 'Farewell'


Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner spoke at our meeting 9th Oct 23


Ashford Rotary Club recognises outstanding dedication to the Community


The Object Of Rotary

Modern Ashford

The Market Town of Ashford Kent


International Committee


Rotary Foundation


Community Committee


Fundraising Committee


Club Policies & Health & Safety