The news came as a great shock both to the newspaper’s staff, and to her many friends in the community.
Mary-Ann was promoted to the role of commercial editor with Cornwall and Devon Media Ltd, the Gazette’s parent company, in January this year, where she oversaw the editing of the company’s series of magazines, together with all its property and motoring editorial content.
It is believed that she died in her sleep at the cottage she rented near Truro on the night of April 26. She is survived by her husband Ian, and children Tom and Anna. The family home is in Cullompton, Devon.
A post-mortem examination to discover the cause of death was due to be carried out today.
After a career on a series of newspapers in the Midlands, including the Solihull News, the Birmingham Post and the Evesham Journal Series, in 1998 Mary-Ann won the deputy editor role on the North Devon Journal and Mid Devon Gazette Series, where she was based at the Tiverton office, leading the team producing the Gazette.
The family settled in Cullompton, Devon, and Mary-Ann forged a number of links with community organisations, including the Tiverton branch of the Soroptomists. She was also a supporter of several local organisations. She was a member of the Society of Editors during her time with the Gazette.
She threw herself both into the development of the Gazette Series and wider involvement in the community. She oversaw a redesign and restructure of the Gazette and the launch of a third edition of the paper, serving the Culm Valley.
In 2003, Mary-Ann’s commitment and dedication was rewarded with promotion to editor of the Mid Devon Gazette Series.
Editor-in-chief Andy Cooper said: “Everyone in our company is stunned at the news of Mary-Ann’s death.
“She was a popular, hard-working and extremely skilled colleague who I also counted as a personal friend.
“Everyone who ever came into contact with Mary-Ann will remember the sheer joy of life she brought to everything she did.
“She was a superb journalist and a tremendous manager of people. Above all else she was a lovely human being who cared deeply about people who worked around her. She was utterly selfless in all that she did.
“Her sad loss will not only touch deeply her colleagues in CDM but also the wider UK newspaper industry where she was well known and highly regarded by the many colleagues she had worked with over her career. I am sure the wider Mid Devon community will also be shocked and saddened at this news.”
Earlier this year, in recognition of her efforts for the community in Mid Devon during her time as editor, she was named highly commended in Tiverton Town Council’s Citizen of the Year contest and was presented with her award in a ceremony at Tiverton.
In September last year, to commemorate her 40th year in journalism, Mary-Ann sponsored the match ball and acted as the mascot at a Tiverton Town match. She carried a bucket around the ground collecting for the journalists’ charity, the Newspaper Press Fund.
Pat Keenor, who worked closely with Mary-Ann throughout her time at the Gazette and was most recently her deputy, said: “It’s fair to say that I viewed her appointment as editor with a little apprehension. What did this ‘Brummie’ with a new broom know about Mid Devon and its people? We were already a thriving newspaper, steadily putting on circulation. Would she try to change everything?
“But I needn’t have worried. It soon became obvious that the ‘Brummie’ cared passionately about local newspapers in general and the Gazette in particular.
“Mary-Ann made it her mission to find out everything she could about Mid Devon. She drove all around our circulation area familiarising herself with its towns and numerous villages. She went out of her way to talk to readers, gave talks, attended events, presented trophies and became part of the community. The Gazette continued to thrive, thanks to her hard work and dedication. Her enthusiasm was infectious and she was always positive and upbeat, refusing to let any setback get her down.
“If professionally she earned our respect, it was on a personal level that she made the most impression. Her door was always open and she listened patiently and sympathetically.
“She was unfailingly patient and unfailingly polite. I never once, in a high pressure business, saw her lose her temper.
“I know I speak for all the staff when I say that we will miss her very much.”
No date has yet been set for her funeral.