RICHARD "Dick" Smith arrived into Fiji in September 1959 and immediately his keen eyes saw the potential of tourism in the islands. The following year he started operating Stardust Cruises, a charter and day cruise company servicing the Mamanuca Group.
In the following years, those who had never heard of him would get to speak of him in awe. For it was Dick's early interest in the islands that provided the catalyst, sparked development and transformed the Mamanucas into a hub of tourism activities.
Some of his most defining years were spent in the Mamanucas, hence it was only fitting that in his ailing days, the founding father of Fiji's tourism industry chose to be at Musket Cove, a resort he built on Malolo Lailai.
For the people who work in the tourism industry, Dick's passing will leave a permanent void.
Tony Whitton, the managing director of Rosie Holidays, remembers how his mother Rosie would be approached personally by Dick and the late Dan Costello Senior. They would ask her how many tourists were entering the country at the Nadi International Airport.
"Sometimes they would wait at the airport and greet tourists themselves. They would compete as to who would get the most guests," said Mr Whitton.
While running Stardust Cruises, Dick extended his influence in the industry leaving his imprint in properties as the developer and owner of Castaway Island Resort. Opened for operation in 1966, the resort is a landmark itself as it is well known as Fiji's first ever island resort.
Not long after opening Castaway on Qalito island, Mr Smith set his sights on developing another hotel on neighbouring Malolo Lailai.
According to his protÃ©gÃ©, Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto, Mr Smith built and opened Plantation Island Resort in 1969.
And it seems that the great entrepreneur who has been described by Mr Seeto as "humble and down to earth" also wanted to expand his empire and further develop the picturesque beaches of the Mamanucas.
Mr Seeto also added that Mr Smith loved Fiji so much that he became a Fiji citizen in 1972.
"He was truly a visionary man because he saw what many at that time couldn't see," said Mr Whitton.
"He saw the business potential of these islands and he wanted the world to see what he saw."
And what he saw was another potential on Malolo Lailai. In 1976 Dick built and opened his most prized project - Musket Cove Island Resort.
"From the bure's and villa's neat layouts, the marina and its convenience, Musket Cove is still the only one of its kind in the Mamanuca's," said resort manager, Joe Mar who is a second generation employee for Mr Smith.
Out of all his great works, Mr Smith was also deeply involved in the welfare of the people of Malolo Lailai and the education of their children.
The Tui Lawa, Ratu Sevanaia Vatunitu had earlier expressed his sadness at Mr Smith's passing saying that Dick had assisted in building schools, providing scholarships, and funding many projects which raised the standard of living for many people in the Malolo community.
According to Mr Seeto, Dick served on many organisations in the tourism and travel industry.
"He was a chairman of the Trustees for the Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards, President and Board Member of the Fiji Hotel tourism Association, President and board member of the Mamanucas Chapter of the Hotel and Tourism Association, chair and board member of the Fiji Visitors Bureau (now Tourism Fiji), founding member of the Fiji Tourism Council.
"In 1991, he was awarded the Fiji Times Visionary Award, in 1997 he was awarded the Fiji Excellence in Tourism Award for the "Lifetime Achievement Award". In 2007, he received a special recognition award from SOFTA which is the second largest tourism body in Fiji. In 2009, Dick was named a Lifetime Member of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association for a long and dedicated service.
"In 2010, he was made an Officer of the Order of Fiji - the highest national award in Fiji and I know that he was very proud of that achievement," Mr Seeto said.
His last few days, recalls his long serving nurse, Sereana Vulaono was spent overlooking the building of a cruise ship on the island.
"He was never satisfied with how the ship was being built. Every day he would ask to change something. He just wanted it to be perfect," said Ms Vulaono.
She said even though his health was in a bad state, he still wanted to keep doing what he loved the most.
"He was strong willed and that was something many loved about him."
Apart from being a great visionary, developer, businessman and philanthropist, Mr Smith was also known as a great family man.
"Perhaps as with so many, as a child, I ran along these beaches, and swam in this ocean. I feel that I grew up here listening to the songs, stories and myths walking these island sands under the gaze of my parents, and aunt and uncle," recalls his niece, Dimity Hawkins.
Ms Hawkins said her blessed upbringing was a gift made possible in large part through a man of immense skills, great vision, fierce passion and compassion.
Mr Smith is survived by his wife, Carol Smith, his daughter Josephine Smith-Mofatt and son-in-law Will Mofatt.
In 1872, Malolo Lailai was sold to John Thomson by Ratu Kini, a Nadroga Chief.
Malolo Lailai being uninhabited, was purchased to plant cotton, which was in shortage.
John Thomson died in 1876 and Malolo Lailai was sold to Louis Armstrong, an American. Armstrong died bankrupt and the island was transferred to the Mortgage Agency of Australasia Ltd, who sold and transferred the island to James Borron in November 1891. James Borron, who owned and ran several plantations throughout Fiji, leased Malolo Lailai to a Chinese family by the name of Wongket for 70 years to plant and harvest copra, a lucrative commodity during the late 1800's and 1900's. However in the early 60's with the Wongket's agreement to cut short the lease it was sold to three owners, Richard Smith, Regge Raffe and Sir Ian MacFarlane.The three then renamed Malolo Lailai as Leeward Island in the late 60's. In the early 1970's the three gentlemen decided to part ways and individually manage their portion of the island. By then the airstrip was built which ran as a boundary and divided the now Plantation Island Resort and Musket Cove Resort. In 1969 Plantation Village Resort opened with six rooms now known as Plantation Island Resort.
Richard (Dick) Smith started building on Musket Cove, which was then casually known as Dick's Place and on the 03rd of October 1976, Musket Cove Island Resort was born. The resort opened with twelve Bures. Prior to opening Musket Cove, the Smith's built, owned and later sold Fiji's first island resort, Castaway, an icon in Fiji tourism. Musket Cove proudly stands as Fiji's Oldest Resort Company boasting a diverse range of Accommodation choices with 55 Bures and Villas, Private Homes or Villas residential development, Marina, a purpose built day Spa, fully Licensed Bar & restaurant.
In the year 2000, Sir Ian MacFarlane sold his share of Malolo Lailai to the remaining two partners resulting in Musket Coves 400 hundred acres directly to the north of the airstrip, which has been put to use for the organic farm and the continuation of the coconut plantation to supply the resort. Musket Cove today is an entirely Fijian owned and operated company that employs over 120 staff to run the resort and the islands facilities.