Tributes have been paid to a former Eastbourne Gazette and Herald journalist who passed away last week aged 55.
Sarah Clarke was the chief reporter at the newspaper in the 1980s.
In recent years she had been the news editor at the Kent Messenger.
The passionate Crystal Palace fan had worked for the Messenger group since joining the company as senior reporter in February 1997. She was promoted to chief reporter then senior news editor, a role she remained in throughout her career.
Sarah had been off work for a number of months as she fought cancer, a battle that colleagues said she had approached with her customary optimism and calmness.
Sarah worked at Beckett Newspapers from October 1982 to January 1987.
Former Eastbourne Gazette and Herald photographer Mark Dimmock said, “Sarah held her position as chief reporter with true professionalism, dedication and humour. Always one to defend and support her colleagues to the hilt, she also carried this through as a dedicated chapel officer within the Gazette and Herald NUJ.
“Not only was she a delight to work with, she was extraordinarily good company and always at the centre of such good times we press people had off duty.
“Sarah was also, much to the embarrassment of many a sports reporter, the most knowledgeable person to be met about football. Her insights were special and her love of Crystal Palace enduring.
“I know I speak for many who can’t fathom out how someone so, so lovely could be taken so young.”
On the Kent Messenger website, colleagues have remembered Sarah, who lived in Gillingham, as a dedicated, compassionate journalist who could ‘talk most men under the table’ with her detailed knowledge of football.
She was best known in the community as the driving force behind the Pride in Medway awards, which are now in their 17th year and she put huge amounts of her own time into turning the awards into one of the highlights of the community calendar.
Medway Messenger reporter Nicola Jordan described Sarah as the ‘rock of the newsroom.’
“She had a nose for a good story, hence her speedy promotion to running a newsroom,” said Nicola.
“As well as reporting on hard news, Sarah was an incredibly compassionate journalist. She was the driving force behind Pride in Medway - indeed most would say she was Pride In Medway.
“She loved football. When the Gills got to Wembley, she worked through the night with the news team to put a special supplement together.
“As a news editor, Sarah was the rock of the newsroom. Working for much of her time on an evening paper, the Evening Post, she was a calming influence in frequent stressful situations. When a front page splash collapsed at the last minute, Sarah would always have a “Plan B”.
“Given the hours Sarah put into the job, it’s hard to believe that she fitted so much into her life.
“She took a great interest in education - for many years she was on the board of governors at Walderslade Girls’ School.
“Given the hours Sarah put into the job, it’s hard to believe that she fitted so much into her life.”
Sarah leaves a son, Fraser, and partner Harry.
Funeral details are yet to be released.
Harry paid tribute to his wife, saying Sarah had been laughing and joking up to the end.
“Sarah’s spirit, stoicism and dignity in those final days were typical of her and the amazing strong woman, who I am proud to call my wife,” said Harry.
“Throughout her last year, I was constantly amazed by Sarah’s courage, strength and dignity, and I take some solace that the experience brought us even closer together and strengthened our love for each other.
“It has been hard to lose her so quickly; however, I am trying to tell myself that at least Sarah was spared the long drawn out, painful death that faces so many cancer sufferers.
“If you have to go, is there any better way to go than being pain free, as high as a kite on morphine chatting, laughing and joking with your friends and family around you?”