Passionate isle businessman and Spitfire Museum President Ken Wills has died after a long battle with cancer.
Ken was a successful, self-made, Thanet businessman employing hundreds of people. He launched and built some of the South East’s leading company’s ranging from aviation and property through to radio stations and charities.
He was also never far from the controls of a helicopter. Ken was a well known pilot and enjoyed flying everyone from residents to Government figures around the Thanet coastline, proudly showing off all the area had to offer. He loved Thanet and wanted to share his passion with passengers.
He was happiest making a real ‘difference’ to people and their lives. His interest and support of aviation extended to the Hurricane & Spitfire Museum based at Manston. He helped to secure the museum freehold -meaning its trustees could take control of the museum’s future for generations to come. In a statement from the museum it says Ken was: “a generous, kind, thoughtful and understanding manager and friend. He will be sorely missed by all the trustees, staff and volunteers.”
Ken worked hard for various charitable causes that were close to his heart, these included local hospital fundraising and international aid relief. He was instrumental in building a school in Cambodia and launched a charity which raised in excess of $1,000,000 to support children in the Ukraine.
The dad-of-four also featured in countless television programmes charting his ‘rise’ from ‘rags to riches’. Whilst originally born in Ashford, he quickly made Thanet his home and was never lured away by promises of a ‘better life’ in London or the Far East.
Ken was a founder of KMfm for Thanet, formerly Thanet Local Radio (TLR), one of the UK ‘s most successful local commercial radio stations. He had many friends in the business community and hoped to see the area thrive.
His passion of Manston as an ‘aviation hub’ led him to build a uniquely designed jet engine workshop – Summit Aviation – adjacent to the former airport. He was always a staunch supporter of ‘local employment’, often citing “work for me for one year, work for me for life.”
He was proud to produce quality employment and training positions. This clearly shines through, with many employees being on his payroll in excess of 30 years.
Ken was also featured in ‘Kent’s Power List’ in 2015, a definitive guide of the 40 most influential business people in Kent. It recognised the decision-makers whose actions have made a big impact across the county and beyond.
David Foley, East Kent Chamber of Commerce CEO, said: “Ken was a serial entrepreneur, risk taker, engineer, champion pilot and star of the East Kent economy. His presence will be sorely missed both in the community and by his wife Julie and family.”
Ken passed away on October 19, aged 63.
A funeral service will be held at St Lawrence College, Ramsgate on Thursday, November 2 at 2pm.