Tribute to Observer secretary of 42 years

Chichester Observer
Chichester Observer

A secretary who worked for three editors of the Observer in a career spanning 42 years died on Saturday (December 9) at the Abbas Combe Care Home, Chichester.

She was Joan Etherton – known to many colleagues, contributors and readers as ‘Miss E’ – who lived in the Chichester area all her life and was 90 in May this year.

After completing an intensive secretarial course at the Gregg School in Brighton in 1945 she was faced with a choice of a job with a firm of solicitors or on the local Chichester Observer. The paper won.

The Observer series was then owned and printed in Little London by R.J.Acford, whose daughter Majorie was the editor.

In 1950 when the paper was bought by Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers her new editor was James Neal for 11 years before Graham Brooks took over the editor’s chair from 1961 to 1992.

In the early days Joan was responsible for accounts, advertising, subscriptions and proof-reading in addition to her secretarial duties, but as the Observer expanded to larger offices in South Street and the circulation increased she specialised as a secretary.

She also played a leading role in the organisation of special centenary editions and celebrations of the Bognor Regis Observer in 1972, Midhurst and Petworth Observer in 1982 and Chichester Observer in 1987 and was involved with community groups and local clubs as well as the day-to-day work arising from a team of reporters, sub-editors, photographers and village correspondents.

Graham Brooks said: “Joan was an exceptional person, setting and maintaining the highest of standards, a lady of quality and integrity.”

Outside the office Joan was a skilled needlewoman, making glorious patchwork quilts and all her own clothes.

She was a founder member of Chichester Quilters and a member of the national Quilters’ Guild.

Joan is survived by her two sisters Elizabeth and Margaret.