Tributes to Midhurst and Petworth Observer stalwart

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Tribute has been paid to Pat Howard, the paper’s receptionist and office manager for 47 years, who has died.

Former Observer editor Graham Brooks was chief reporter at Midhurst when Pat Page, as she was then, started work in the one-room Observer office in North Street in November 1954, at the age of 15.

She died on October 16 at St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, after a short illness. She was 72. Mr Brooks said he had fond memories of Patsy, as he always called her.

“It was her first job on leaving school and she was keen to do well. She proved to be efficient, hard-working and totally reliable with a personality and a smile that endeared her to customers,” Mr Brooks said.

“Nothing was too much trouble for Patsy. She also made a splendid cup of coffee and on occasions a handy baby-sitter for our two young children.

“Later, when I became editor of the Observer, she was still there holding the fort at Midhurst and when I retired in 1992 she was as fresh and interested in her job as ever.”

Pat was born and brought up at Stedham, and lived there for most of her life. She was the eldest of the three daughters of local plumber Charlie Page and his wife Mabel.

Pat went to the village school at Stedham and then on to Midhurst Secondary Modern. In 1959, she married Derek Howard from Singleton.

She continued working at the Observer’s Midhurst office apart from a break when her children were born and a brief spell at the main office in Chichester. She was the paper’s constant public face as successive reporters came and went. When she retired in 2002, Pat recalled: “It was busy, busy in those days.”

She handled all the advertising for the Midhurst and Petworth edition and also managed a legion of paper boys and girls who delivered the papers.

Pat was fully involved with village life in Stedham over the years, including being a member of the Young Wives, WI and horticultural society, a church bellringer and flower arranger, and responsible for the distribution of the parish magazine. At one stage she also cooked part-time at Fitzhall, Iping, when it was an old people’s home.

Pat was widowed in 2008. She is survived by her children, Alyson, Nicholas and Wendy, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her funeral is private, at her request, but donations in her memory may be made to Macmillan Cancer Support via funeral directors Roger Poat and Partners.