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Regional daily columnist loses cancer battle at 78

Tributes have been paid to a 78-year-old newspaper columnist who has lost his battle with cancer just weeks after being presented with an award recognising his 60 years in journalism.

John Abberley first started working for Stoke’s The Sentinel as a cub reporter at the age of 17 and worked for BBC radio before returning to the title.

He wrote his last nostalgia article for the regional daily just weeks before he died from oesophageal cancer on Saturday, which he was diagnosed with 14 months ago.

John was presented with the Editor’s Special Award by editor Mike Sassi at the newspaper’s annual Our Heroes event at the end of September.

  • John, left, was presented with the award by Mike Sassi.
  • Mike said: “It was a privilege to know John and an honour to work with him.

    “He was held in the highest regard by his readers and his colleagues, as a very intelligent man whose depth of local knowledge was unparalleled. He will be sorely missed.”

    John became one of the founding members of BBC Radio Stoke in 1967 and spent many years as a journalist there.

    After retiring from radio in 1989, he returned to The Sentinel and also wrote for the title’s Way We Were publication.

    Sean Dooley, the paper’s editor at the time, said: “As a columnist, he was both an editor’s dream and a nightmare. His articles would shine with astute appraisal one day and rampant partiality the next.

    “He was celebrated and condemned in equal measure by Sentinel readers, but never ignored.

    “And, throughout the furore created by his opinions, he retained his courteous, gently-spoken manner and mischievous twinkle. North Staffordshire has certainly lost a legend with his passing.”

    John was known by his colleagues as a stickler for grammar and accuracy and as a mine of information about the history of the area.

    He was married three times and leaves wife Tessa and his four children.


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    • November 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm

      Sad loss. Abbo, with his smelly boiled eggs of a lunch, was a great guy. I worked with him on features at Etruria and he was a mine of funny stories. RIP John.

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    • November 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

      I left the then Evening Sentinel on November 7 1969 after several happy years and remember John as a true professional, one of the old school. He really thought and cared about every word he wrote, was an ambassador of journalism, both in print and in broadcasting. In my early days there bylines weren’t used and he wrote under the initials JSA…until September 15th 1967 when he did a final On Stage column before departing for BBC Radio Stoke – and handing over the quill to Peter Strick. John was unmasked (as he wrote) “in the manner of an all-in wrestler” and his identity was finally revealed. RIP John. You were a character, long may you be remembered. PS: Where is Peter Strick now? I particularly recall a windy day, as now, when his brolly blew inside out – and he wrote to the “broken umbrella department” at Harrods to complain! Another character from days gone by. Newspapers don’t seem to have them any more, to a large extent just cut-and-paste merchants supplied with their material by press officers, many PRs lacking proper journalistic training and never having worked on newspapers. Sadly the best days of journalism have long gone, I think. But I’m remaining positive and keeping my fingers crossed for the future Regards to anyone at The Sentinel who remembers me.

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