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Farewell John, a dedicated journalist and a gentle man
FRIENDS and colleagues have been paying tribute to widely respected former Worcester News journalist John Abbs, who has died at the age of 74.
John, who joined the Berrows group in the 1980s, was an old school newspaperman whose attention to detail, fairness and accuracy were held in high regard in newsrooms throughout a career spanning almost 50 years.
John was born in Orpington in Kent in March, 1938, and the family moved to Gloucestershire during the Second World War.
He attended Marling, Stroud’s only grammar school for boys.
His first job in journalism was as a cub reporter on the Stroud Journal – later to become the Stroud News and Journal – at the age of 16. It was important to get scoops and beat the rivals, “even with such menial matters as whist drives, rummage sales and WI meetings,” said fellow Old Marlingtonian, former workmate and friend Ron Gardiner.
John went on to gain considerable experience with other newspapers, on the South Coast, Bristol – including the Evening Post and Western Daily Press – and in Gloucester. At the Citizen evening paper in Gloucester John was a senior reporter specialising in business and industry, then chief reporter. He became deputy chief sub editor and features editor.
He numbered novelist Laurie Lee, author of Cider with Rosie, among his friends and named his middle daughter Rosie. His first wife, Marjorie, passed away after suffering from cancer.
At the Citizen he met his second wife Beverly, who worked in the next room as woman’s page editor, and they moved to Kempsey in Worcester in the 1980s.
He became a valued member of the news and features sub-editing teams at the Worcester Evening News, then as a freelance sub editor on various Worcestershire weekly papers, before returning part time as a sub editor on the Worcester News before finally retiring at the age of 69.
John was also a volunteer helper with WODYS (Worcester Operatic and Dramatic Society Youth Section) after his daughter, Lucy, became a member in 1995. He helped backstage and also used his journalistic skills with publicity and on the show programmes.
“John was a lovely man. He was gentle, kind and free of malice. We will miss him,” said business manager Dave Skelton.
Kempsey held a very special place in his heart and together with a group of other Christian friends he was a founder member of Grace Community, where fellow members said he will be greatly missed.
John became ill last summer but still retained a keen interest in the newspaper trade. As one of his last acts, he was proof-reading pages at home – a newspaperman to the end.
He leaves wife Beverly, three daughters, Alison, Rosie and Lucy, and two grandchildren, Mia and Lauren.
A funeral service to celebrate John’s life will be held at St Mary’s Church, Kempsey, on Monday at 11.30am.