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'Independent spirit' journalist died aged 76

Former Mid Sussex Times reporter John Stallwood has died, aged 76.

Aged 16 he successfully applied to join the Cambridge Daily News as a trainee journalist and in 1953 joined the Mid Sussex Times as a general reporter. He became a busy district reporter at Burgess Hill and a popular member of the editorial team.

Former colleague Mark Gale said: “When I joined a rather elderly editorial staff he was by far the youngest member and seemed like a breath of fresh air.

“Together we sometimes covered the district on a Norton motorcycle and he was always friendly, amusing company willing to pass on the benefit of his experience to someone just starting out.”

He remembered John as an independent spirit, adding: “He soon put right those people who expected a story to be written exactly as they wanted it. He told the tale his way and usually got it right.”

In the late 1950s he changed direction and joined Link House Publications as advertising manager and shortly after that his next career move was into public relations with the Optical Information Council, an organisation set up to make spectacles more fashionable.

To distance modern `sexier’ frames from the unattractive specs provided by the NHS, John invented the term eye-wear and was largely responsible for transforming these widely used optical prosthetics into a glamorous fashion accessory using models and show business stars.

In later life John contracted a progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis but despite that he formed a successful publishing company in retirement and continued to work in journalism, writing a regular column for Burgess Hill’s civic magazine.