A former regional press journalist who left the industry just two years ago has died of a suspected heart attack in Budapest at the age of 65.
John Fletcher, left, a former reporter at Exeter’s Express and Echo, took up a role as a teaching assistant after leaving the title and died on a school trip while in the Hungarian capital.
Tributes have been paid to John after his death, which came just days before he was due to celebrate his 66th birthday.
Son Craig told the paper: “Our Dad was a true gentlemen, he was a dedicated grandfather to his six grandchildren. He always had a smile on his face and was truly loved by his family.”
Echo production editor Ed Oldfield said: “John was a journalist of the old school, charming, funny, down-to-earth, always cheerful and ready with a joke, even in the toughest circumstances, and relentless in pursuit of a good story.
“He never complained when he had a setback with his health and his good humour lifted the spirits of anyone who met him, in the newsroom and elsewhere.
“It was his disarming humour, genuine interest in people and calm reassurance that contributed to his success as a reporter, as people instantly warmed to him and found themselves telling him their stories.
“I met him regularly in Exmouth after he left the Echo, and John clearly delighted in his new job as a teaching assistant. He enjoyed working with the youngsters, passing on his love of writing and stimulating their desire to discover more about the world around them.”
After spending his whole career in journalism, John became a teaching assistant at the Beacon School in Exmouth, where he passed on his literacy expertise to young children.
News editor Rob Sims said: “An old school journalist, John cared deeply about his profession, and dedicated his working life to it.
“Fletch was a true character, in every sense of the word, and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him. He brightened everyone’s day.”
Features editor Sue Kemp added: “Fletch loved his job at the Echo, particularly when he was the Exmouth reporter. He was very proud to live there and wanted to support the town any way he could.
“As a work colleague he was good fun, always ready with tales of journalism in ‘the old days’ and sharing jokes. He was a lively character and left a big hole in the newsroom when he left.”
John leaves three children, sons Craig and Matthew and daughter Justine, along with six grandchildren.
The Express & Echo has gathered a series of other tributes from John’s former colleagues and these are reproduced below:
Shaun Campbell: “A great journo and a terrific bloke.”
Sarah Elliott: “He was the friendliest man with a cheeky glint in his eye!”
Thomas Bacon: “Exmouth has lost a great journalist and most importantly a top bloke.”
Gareth Williams: “Always liked a chat and a laugh and was always great fun to be around.”
Sylvie Bridel: “John was always such a happy chappy; always a big smile on his face.”
Marilyn Frankum: “Had many laughs over the years and loved winding him up. He was a good sport.”
Eleanor Hervin: “One of journalism’s great characters. I know he’ll be beaming that great big, infectious smile of his wherever he is.”
Naomi Harris: “A brilliant journalist and one of life’s true gents.”
Emma Slee: “He was one of journalism’s great characters.”
Tom Bevan: “Fletch would brighten up every working day with a joke. He was such a big character but also just a decent bloke right to the core.”
John Lewis: “John was such a cheerful and charming fellow that you could see the glint in his eye before he even turned to look at you.”
Hannah Hope: “Fletch was a warm and friendly colleague. He was positive and loved life. He loved Exmouth.”
Fran McElhone: “Fletch was a lovely person to be around, I was always happy to see his smiley face in the morning.”
Nick Warren “He was always having a smile on his face and seemingly taking everything in his stride.”