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Former Diss Express editor Kay Hunter dies after contracting coronavirus

Tributes have been paid to former Diss Express editor Kay Hunter, who died last week after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Mrs Hunter was admitted to Norwich University Hospital on New Year’s Eve after a fall at home. After being diagnosed with the virus, she died last Wednesday. She was 92.

She leaves a lasting and tangible legacy in Diss, both with her work at the newspaper and various community groups.

Diss Express editor Kay Hunter (seated), with reporters Carol Billingham, Richard Sutton and Bill Walker, and sub-editor Don Schofield.
Diss Express editor Kay Hunter (seated), with reporters Carol Billingham, Richard Sutton and Bill Walker, and sub-editor Don Schofield.

Her two sons, Paul and Graeme Clarke, paid tribute their “warm, friendly and spirited” mother.

“She was warm, friendly, and always interested in the lives of others, which she exercised in her journalism and various biographies,” said her eldest, Paul, 70.

Graeme, who works at a Diss-based insurance firm, added: “She was a very spirited woman – people will remember her for a combination of independence and humour.”

Born in Middlesbrough in 1928 to a policeman and a teacher, Mrs Hunter lived in Essex, where she worked as a teacher for bed-ridden children, before moving to Finningham in 1966 and later settling in Victoria Road, Diss, around the turn of the century, where she lived until her death.

She wrote and published several books under her married name as Kay Rogers, and co-wrote the autobiographies of famed British dancers John Gilpin and Anton Dolin, and actress Dora Bryan.

Later in life, she would befriend several well-known British spiritualists, while also editing and contributing to the specialist magazine Psychic News.

Graeme, 68, added: “Because she moved in so many different circles, she would come up with so many funny anecdotes.

“She wasn’t name dropping, she just knew things, and people would be very surprised to know some of the things she knew.”

It was in journalism that she made her lasting mark on Diss, working as editor of this newspaper between 1971 and 1976, before returning in 1991 to work as a columnist.

Martin Ward, who joined the Diss Express as a reporter in 1973, credited his former editor for breathing new life into the paper.

He said: “Kay brought her calm leadership to the Diss Express when its survival was in doubt. In its new tabloid form, she gently steered it back to health.

“I wrote and asked her for a job. We talked on the Friday and it was a case of ‘Start Monday – and, oh, bring your own typewriter’.

“She had trust and confidence in her small team and we hardly felt her presence – yet her warmth and gentle guidance generated in us great self-discipline.

“We laughed a lot, but routine work got done, and we still had the freedom to go out and find our own stories.

“She inspired huge loyalty and, later, friendship, too. She wrote like an angel: I learnt so much from her. It is so sad that she is gone.”

During her time at the Diss Express, she introduced Mere Quacks, a weekly cartoon drawn by cartoonist Mike Webb, which remains a mainstay in the paper almost half a century later.

Mr Webb remembered: “A friend of mine got a job at the Diss Express after finishing university, and he said if I was interested he would mention about the possibility of a cartoon.

“When he mentioned it to Kay, she said it would go quite well with the new look of the paper, which had only recently gone down to a tabloid.

“She suggested the idea of ducks as the characters, because of the Mere nearby.

“I’d never done cartoons like that before, where you had to think up jokes, and it’s done me a lot of good.

“When I started on my career as a self-employed painter, people already knew about me, which I have Kay to thank for.”

A classically trained pianist, she was passionate about theatre and drama and, alongside friend Irene Jacobi established Diss-based musical group Mere Players, which, like Mere Quacks, continues to this day.

She married twice, first to surveyor Robert Clarke, and subsequently to ships’ plansman William ‘Bill’ Rogers, who died in 2007. She is survived by her two sons, Paul and Graeme, and four grandchildren, Phoebe, Felix, Rosie and William.

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