A journalist who became editor of a local newspaper in Lancashire where she first started out as a reporter has died of cancer.
Lesley Richards, left, began her career with the Leigh Reporter when she was 17 and later went on to become editor for 20 years.
She died after what friends have described as a private and courageous battle with cancer at the age of 62.
Her funeral, to be held on Friday, will be conducted by Malcolm Ryding who was editor of the Journal from 1979 to 2001 before becoming a Church of England lay reader.
Said Malcolm: “Lesley’s career started when cotton and coal were king and queen in town. The mills and the mines have, by and large, faded away. And as they have disappeared from the landscape, so have the style and character of newspapers that Lesley loved.
“There was nothing Lesley enjoyed better than finding a good story and telling it well. These past few years she fought hard to keep herself away from a growing ‘churnalistic’ approach to news as the industry moved on.”
During her time at the Reporter she raised thousands of pounds for local charities and was also a trustee for a fund to save Leigh Rugby Club when they had financial worries over their ground.
In her teens Lesley was an English Schools hurdler and an Olympic hopeful but declined the opportunity of specialist training.
After leaving the Reporter, Lesley became a Leigh Journal columnist. She retired when diagnosed with cancer last year and died peacefully in Royal Preston Hospital on Thursday 27 October.
Present Journal news editor Brian Gomm said: “She voiced her opinion boldly in her weekly comment column – much to the delight of most readers – and was particularly good at writing human interest stories, maybe because she led such an interesting life herself.
“From schoolgirl athletics star, to 60s glamour girl, ambitious reporter and one of the in-crowd, rebel rouser, newspaper editor to avid antiques collector and animal lover. She was happiest walking her dog along the canal towpath, tending her garden or spending her lunchtimes in local charity shops. ”
In between being a reporter and editor on the Johnston Press title, she worked on newspapers in Wigan and St Helens.
Paying tribute to her, former Reporter colleague and actor Dave Dutton, who recently played the nosy neighbour who discovered John Fishwick’s body in Coronation Street, said: “Lesley was a good reporter who had the best interests of the community in her thoughts and words.
“I spoke to her a week or so before she died and she sounded in high spirits because her new chemo treatment seemed to be working better, which made it more of a shock when I learned she had died.
“She was a Lancashire schoolgirl champion hurdler but her illness sadly proved a hurdle too far.”
Lesley’s funeral will be at Howe Bridge Crematorium in Atherton on Friday 4 November at 10.45am. Any donations will go to Wigan and Leigh Hospice.