(L-R) Keith Grassick with his son, Ross Grassick.
Keith Francis Grassick, the founder of Lencrow Materials Handling, passed away at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital in Sydney last Friday after suffering a major stroke.
Grassick, who was 88, started a forklift hire business with his son, Ross Grassick, in 1976, trading as Allforks Hire Pty Ltd. His background was in used machinery trading, and most business was conducted via newspaper ads and postal correspondence.
His family says Grassick was proud of the pioneering landscape he and his son created within the materials handling industry, including being one of the first businesses to offer forklift and driver services in Sydney, introducing all-terrain forklifts to the Australian market and tilt-tray forklift transportation.
He was also an extremely skilled forklift operator. In the 1980s, when all-terrain forklifts were first introduced to the market, it became a legal obligation to have a special licence to operate them.
"Keith went to take the test and be licensed and was the first in NSW to do it (according to his version of events). The assessor who was there to test him was not familiar with the type of forklift, how it operated and what he should test for to pass Keith.
"Keith sat in the all-terrain and performed some standard operations, and the assessor, still scratching his head unsure of what to look for, agreed to license him then and there."
The stories this forklift industry pioneer told about the sector included delivering trucks in George Street in Sydney during the middle of the day when cars hardly occupied the narrow streets.
"There are daring stories, too, about the types of forklift operator jobs he would go to because he was the best and the job was not always straightforward. He was a careful operator and hard worker all his life," his family recalls.
Grassick retired at age 81 after an accident at work where an industrial roller door slipped off the chain and fell on his head, causing serious back injuries. His family forced him to retire. He taught himself to walk and talk again, and led an independent life at home, enjoying gardening, family life and dancing to big bands.
During his time in the industry, he worked closely with Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks in particular, and spoke fondly of Mitsubishi's Australian forklift distributor, MLA Holdings, and his business trips to the factory in Japan.
Keith Grassick wrote his memoirs, The Invisible Banner
, after his accident in 1981.
Ross Grassick, managing director of Lencrow Materials Handling, says his father always treated him as a "son first, business partner second". "Family always came first and, with the nature of the business, we all identify as family within Lencrow.
"This news sadly deepens us all as we grieve the loss of a founder, a father, a grandfather and friend."
Grassick's funeral service will be held at 2pm on Monday, 23rd November at Turramurra Uniting Church in Sydney.