International superstart Tina Turner and a young Dean Curbishley in Nice, France.

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Bernard Ashley’s wife Regine bought a sea turtle in captivity in the Grenadines and had the crew paing "Freed by Elanymor,” which was the name of the ship, and set it free.

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Fastec Services founder Dean Curbishley today

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International superstart Tina Turner and a young Dean Curbishley in Nice, France.

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After global adventures, big wheels keep on turning for Fastec Services founder

Posted August 19, 2021

 

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. – Dean Curbishley, whose company Fastec Services LLC is featured on eTC this week, has made one of the most fascinating, circuitous journeys to the textile industry that I’ve ever seen.

 

From a Europe backpacker to a laborer, to an electronics specialist in the marine industry, to Tina Turner’s driver and French translator, to a ship engineer on a seashell-hunting excursion, he enjoyed quite the enchanting – but hardworking – life before ending up as a service provider and equipment supplier to the sector.

 

He experienced many adventures between his upbringing in the market parish of Honiton, England in the county of Devon to his current home in the charming town of Travelers Rest, S.C.

 

And an underlying theme in all of it is his love for electronics and engineering – and a free spirit that took him to places and vistas most of us could never envision.

 

It all started with a backpacking excursion from southwest England to Nice in the South of France after learning his trade at a community college in his hometown. His purpose? To live on a yacht and join his cousin doing menial tasks such as painting and cleanup. He stayed for six months before joining a French marine electronics company that allowed him the opportunity to install electronics in private motor yachts, anything from TV at sea to VHF to radios to radar.

 

Curbishley stayed there for two years before the company folded. He had met a fellow Brit who was working on a construction site at a villa in a small town called Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. He told Curbishley he could get him a job there as a manual worker if he so desired.

 

Curbishley was there for three years before he was told who owned the villa – American-born singer, songwriter and actress Tina Turner – because she would be visiting the property soon to check on its progress, which she did. And after a couple more years, she stayed at the villa full time while construction and remodeling projects were still going on.

 

“She would just help us with her white gloves on,” recalled Curbishley, whom she soon befriended.

 

Turner had several houses that she liked to furnish, decorate and upfit around Europe, and she had a storage facility with furniture and accessories in Nice. There, she stored a number of shipping containers full of goods.

 

“She wouldn't go anywhere without me for that whole last three years that I was there,” Curbishley said. “I would drive her to the storage unit, and I’d ask the guy at the facility to bring out all the containers and put them in a circle in the parking. That way, she could be in the circle and people couldn't see her because she was so popular and well known. We would go there a lot because she'd like to look through all of the furniture and things.”

 

He would typically take her to a restaurant, but he would bring food to her in the car so she wouldn’t be spotted. One time, they stopped at a French restaurant and Turner told him that she would join him inside the restaurant the next day.

 

“She said, ‘would you tell the restaurant owner?’” he recalled. “So I told the owner at the restaurant that I’m bringing Tina Turner for lunch tomorrow. And he’s not believing me. I told him ‘I’m not joking.’ And I said, ‘can you put some partitions around the table?’ He said, ‘yeah, whatever.’ And, sure enough, the next day, she came inside with me.”

 

Curbishley said his construction coworkers at the villa were wary of his frequent absences while driving Ms. Turner.

 

“I got a lot of poking from the other guys on the site, including the site manager, because she was always wanting me to accompany her on these outings,” he said.

 

But he did spend the lion’s share of his eight years there doing things he loved – electronic projects. He helped with installing a cinema room, heated marble floors and walls, AV systems, et al.

 

“At times, a picture in a magazine would change her mind, and she would decide she didn’t like something, and we would just jackhammer it all up and start again,” he said.

 

In its entirety, the project took eight years before Curbishley was on to next leg in his journey. He worked a couple jobs as an engineer on private motor yachts before moving to London to work for a French telecommunications company, Alcatel, which makes optical fiber terminal equipment for transatlantic connections. There, he would test equipment with potential buyers and was able to “wine and dine” them after hours.

 

Then a friend called him who told him a private motor yacht was looking for an electrical engineer in Southampton, England, on a ship that was being refitted.

 

“So I went down and met the captain, and it turns out he’s from five miles away from where I grew up, and we had mutual friends” Curbishley said.

 

“That was the biggest job I had undertaken,” he said. “This was a 52-meter decommissioned Dutch Naval ship, a pilot ship built for the North Sea, and people aboard it were from Laura Ashley.”

 

Laura Ashley is a British upscale textile and apparel design company founded by Bernard Ashley, an engineer, and his wife Laura Ashley in 1953. After Laura Ashley died in 1985, Bernard Ashley and his new wife converted the ship into a luxurious “yacht,” and added a helicopter hanger and pad, as well as many other upgrades.

 

“It took 18 months to rebuild it,” Curbishley said. “I had 30 electricians and seven technicians who changed every wire in the whole ship, then I went with it as a crew member, a second engineer.”

 

That took him to just about every Caribbean island – on a “special assignment.”

 

“We went looking for seashells for two years with 16 crew members and a helicopter,” Curbishley said. “(Bernard Ashley’s) wife loved seashells, from which she would make collages. For two years, we just went up and down the Caribbean, to uninhabited islands. That’s where you find the best shells.”

 

On one of its jaunts, the ship stopped at a restaurant in the Grenadines, which housed an inside pond with a giant live sea turtle with a target painted on its shell. Aghast at the reptile’s captivity, Bernard Ashley’s wife Regine told the restaurant management that she wanted to buy the turtle, which she did. The yacht’s crew lifted the heavy turtle out of the water and carried it to sea. But first they painted over the target with the words, “Freed by Elanymor,” which was the name of the ship.

 

During that journey, Curbishley met the woman who would soon be his wife, Jaimee, who worked on a 100-foot sailboat, in Antigua. He saw her other times on other islands during the journey before his tenure with Elanymor ended, and he would move back to England. She later left her job and met him in his homeland, where they spent time together before marrying in Key West. After a while, they moved to her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., where Curbishley took a one-year job at a metal detector company, which opened his eyes to the industrial sector.

 

 

Soon after he launched his own company, Fastec Services LLC, in his basement, they would move themselves and the business to the Charleston, S.C., area, where turned his garage into his shop and office. That experience opened his eyes to the world of textiles and other industries. Now located in Travelers Rest, S.C., the company has flourished for 20 years and continues to grow its business in the textile, food and pharmaceutical industries.

 

“I have always enjoyed travel, and being European and seeing all the places in the world and all of the places in the United States – every corner of every state – has been a true blessing,” Curbishley said.

 

You might say he’s always liked to see big wheels keep on turning …

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