A HEARTFELT tribute has been paid to an “almost perfect” family man, cabbie and friend.

Hackney Carriage drivers in Basildon say they have lost a “brother, friend and colleague” following the death of Ian Smith, 60, of Mead Way, Benfleet .

The father-of-two and grandfather-of-four lost his fight with cancer last week.

Fellow cabbie and close friend, Dave Blackwell, 59, was among the huge turnout at his funeral on Friday. The pair knew each other for more than ten years and shared a common interest in motorbikes.

In 2007, they rode across Spain together to watch the final in the World Superbikes series.

Mr Blackwell said Mr Smith would be missed by everyone.

He said: “We had some great times together. He was such a lovely bloke and a brilliant family man. He was very understanding, a great friend and would do anything for you, but you couldn’t do anything for him, he always wanted to help other people.

“He was the sort of guy that if you wanted him by your side on any occasion, he would be there.”

Mr Smith was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in December last year and endured a number of operations to tackle the disease.

He carried on working until March this year.

Before he became a taxi driver, Mr Smith was an engineer and started out as an apprentice at Ford, in Dunton, aged 16.

Mr Blackwell added: “Over the years he had done several jobs, but when he took his chance at taxi driving he fell in love with it. He got on so well with everyone and liked the freedom of it.

“I can’t say enough about the guy. He was and will remain in our hearts.”

Ian, who died on July 25, leaves behind his wife Jenny, his two daughters Vanessa, 37 and Melanie, 34, and his four grandchildren, Josh, ten, Freya, seven, Lucy, five and Jack, one.