Ann, 77, whose married name was Fergy, was a highly regarded local journalist who worked for half a century on Sussex newspapers.
Starting as a junior a week after her 16th birthday, trail-blazing Ann was the first ever female reporter on the Mid Sussex Times. She spent her first pay packet on a racing bike to cycle to and from jobs and so begun a life of chasing the news.
After retiring in 2008 Ann put her writing talents to good use as Publicity Officer for the Hastings Seniors Forum.
Glamorous, smart and witty, she was a well-known face around the town, and a regular at annual social events such as the Seafood Festival.
“Ann was the best journalist I’ve ever worked with,” said former colleague and close family friend Sandra Daniels. “She had countless front-page stories and exclusives. From crime to council meetings to human interest, she could sniff out a story, find out the facts and type it out in a flash. You’d know when she was onto a scoop when you heard her fingers clattering furiously over the keyboard – and you knew not to interrupt her!”
“Fearless and fabulous is probably how I’d best describe her!”
Born in Haywards Heath, Ann started her career with the Mid Sussex Times before moving on to the Crawley Observer and Sussex Express. She married fellow reporter Peter Cooper, who became the country’s youngest newspaper editor, and the couple later moved to Hastings with their three young children. When she and Peter split up, Ann joined the dynamic Hastings News on the Castleham Estate which was among the first free newspapers in the country.
Former News Group Editor and longstanding friend Andrea Hargreaves, from Seaford, commented: “I was frankly in awe of her talent and ability as a journalist.
“As well as uncovering stories which needed to be told she brought wit and style to the pages of Hastings’ then rival local papers in a way that is unlikely to be matched.”
As with all truly professional journalists, Ann was sensitive and aware of the people behind the story.
Continued Andrea. “On occasion the laughter turned to tears as she covered tragic stories. I remember particularly how she struggled 30 or so years ago to write up her interview with people who had lost family members on the Herald of Free Enterprise. I can remember her with her head in her hands, face white with grief for them, as she concentrated on finding exactly the right sentences to tell this appalling story with great sensitivity, making every word count.”
Ann was News Editor of the Hastings Observer for many years. She loved Hastings and its unusual stories. She attended hundreds of council meetings and every single election count.
“Ann interviewed me for my first ever reporter’s job back in the 80s,” said Sandra Daniels. “I shadowed her in my early days and remember us roaring round in her red, soft-top sports car chasing stories.
“Intelligent and razor sharp, she was a superb mentor and many cub reporters were trained by her over the years. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and juniors would quake if they’d messed up and were in for a ticking off, but that brought out the best in them.
“Ann was also terrific fun and loved to laugh. From G and Ts in the pub at lunchtime to champagne parties, she always sparkled, both in looks and conversation.
“We became close friends outside of the newsroom, sharing life’s highs and lows, and she remained an inspiration until the end.”
Former Hastings Observer editor Russell Claughton said: “Ann probably wouldn’t have minded being called an old-school news-hound - though she’d have had a wittily scathing response. She could spot a hard news story in a heart-beat. She’d brush aside bull’, lies and unanswered phones to get to the story in its accurate entirety. Then she’d pare it down to a lean, mean headline-grabber and move on to the next story. And the next. Tirelessly, and always with enthusiasm and good humour.”
Senior Forum President Pam Brown said: “We were delighted when Ann became our publicity officer. Ann is a great loss to us. She lit up the room when she walked into it.”
Struck down by pancreatic cancer in July last year, Ann underwent an eight-hour operation at the Royal Surrey Hospital and made a remarkable recovery.
However, the shock news that the cancer had spread was revealed last month and she died last Wednesday (March 13th) at Hastings Court Care Home.
She leaves husband Ron, children Simon, Susannah and Nick and partners, as well as five grandchildren.
Ann’s funeral takes place at Hastings Crematorium on Monday April 1st at 12.30pm. The service will be conducted by Jonathan Mendenhall, a former journalist colleague of Ann’s.