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Editor who served weekly for 44 years dies aged 76

Martin HealAn award-winning editor who spent 44 years with the same newspaper has died aged 76.

Tributes have been paid to Martin Heal, who joined the Western Gazette in 1963 and remained with the Yeovil-based weekly until his retirement in 2007.

In 2000, under his tenure, the Gazette won BT South West Weekly Newspaper of the Year Award, and was runner up in the national final in the same year.

Lifelong friend, Gazette colleague and neighbour Ken Hayward described Martin, pictured, as a “true gentleman”.

Ken told Somerset Live: “I’ve known Martin since our days at Yeovil Grammar School.

“We started approximately at the same time in the early 1960s, both married Western Gazette girls and we lived in Sherborne approximately 200 yards apart.

“From an early age Martin was interested people and community, he was in fact a very active lay preacher for longer than he was a journalist.

“This life philosophy was easily transferable to his editorial style putting people, especially local communities, first in his approach to journalism and staff management.

“His immediate staff and other disciplines from the advertising and newspaper sales would say of him that he was a true gentleman who treated everyone in the same way.”

Bede MacGowan, who went on to edit a number of weekly newspapers in both Someerset and Wales, was a trainee reporter at the Gazette under Martin.

He said: “Martin gave me my first job in journalism and sparked a lifelong passion in the industry and for that, I will always be grateful to him.

“I remember being struck not just by how much he loved the Gazette but also by the genuine care he showed towards the community and people it served.

“He was an excellent editor and, beyond that, a principled, fair and kind man who gave and earned respect in equal measure.”

Martin is survived by wife Pat, to whom he had been married for 54 years, their children Nicholas, Lin and Carrie, and seven grandchildren.

There will be a service to remember Martin’s life on Friday 4 February at the Cheap Street Church, in Sherborne. People are encouraged to wear bright colours in line with his wishes.