Published: 16:06, 16 June 2020
| Updated: 12:23, 17 June 2020
One of the county's most respected journalists has died after suffering a heart attack.
Ron Green was a former editor of the Kent Messenger, Kent Today daily newspaper and KentOnline.
Beginning his career on Sheppey in the 1960s, the 73-year-old worked in Maidstone, Medway, Canterbury, Gravesend, Folkestone and Larkfield.
He launched the Pride in Medway and Pride of Maidstone award schemes and was presented with a certificate of merit by the chief constable for running the Kent Young People’s Respect Awards.
The grandfather died early Tuesday morning after suddenly becoming ill at his home in Littlehampton, West Sussex.
His wife of 53 years, Paulene, said they'd been out for a long walk with their 14-year-old grandson, where Ron had been "messing about climbing trees" with the youngster. As they were getting ready for bed last night, he became ill and collapsed.
Such was his fun-loving way, Paulene, 72, didn't realise at first what was happening.
She said: "I thought he was messing about again and I told him to 'cut it out' but then I realised something was wrong. I realised he was in a bad way and I called 999. The ambulance came and they were here for 45 minutes trying everything they could think of to bring him back. They were wonderful but it wasn't to be.
"He wasn't ill at all, unless there were underlying conditions, which they'll find out later."
The couple met 55 years ago at the Chatham News where Paulene was a proof reader and Ron was going for shorthand lessons.
They had two children Adrian and Julia – both teachers – five grandchildren and a step grandchild.
Ron, who was proud of his Medway Towns upbringing, retired from the KM in January 2010, just two days short of completing 30 years with the company.
The following month, he received a Shepherd Neame Lifetime Achievement Award with a citation saying "a first-rate journalist who writes like an angel".
Throughout an illustrious career, he held a dozen senior editorial jobs, including deputy editor of the Kent Evening Post.
During his editorship the Kent Messenger became the largest-circulation weekly paper in the UK.
It also won the title of UK community newspaper of the year and was voted the weekly newspaper of the year in 2002 and 2003.
His first award came in 1965 when he won a competition for Kent trainee journalists, with the last in 2005 for Kent’s War, the KM Group’s supplement commemorating the 60th anniversary of VE Day and judged the “best added value supplement” by the Newspaper Society.
Former KM Group managing editor Norman Smith worked with Ron for more than 20 years.
He said: "I'm devastated by the loss of a dear former colleague and very close friend.
"He was my deputy before he took over my job as managing editor when I retired.
"Ron was a very talented journalist, a good man and a very good people manager, who was always responsive to the demands asked of him.
"I am just so very sad to hear the news."
After leaving the company, he continued to work and became a lecturer at the University of Kent's Centre for Journalism in Medway.
Its director of education, Rob Bailey, said: "Ron and I pursued each other across Kent for 20 years, as both of our careers moved from the Kent Messenger’s newsrooms and into the lecture hall.
"He gave me my first senior reporter’s job in Maidstone and quickly became a role model. Ron was a great champion of communities, cared deeply about local news and edited with compassion and imagination. For a young reporter he was an inspirational editor and a patient mentor.
"So it was not a surprise when, 10 years later, I found him again at the University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism in Medway.
"Ron joined as a writing teacher soon after it was founded and inspired generations of students – just as he had inspired me.
"He taught them to be ethical, professional journalists, and always with a sense of mischief and fun. Students loved him. Long after graduation they kept in touch with the “Reverend Green”, so-called because of his habit of dressing up as a vicar for a news writing exercise every Halloween.
"There are hundreds of young reporters out there today who carry a little of Ron’s journalistic DNA. The industry is better for it."
Former Evening Post and Medway Messenger editor, David Jones, knew Ron for more than 50 years.
He said: "It's hit me like a bombshell, not least because he was always bursting with a kind of enthusiastic, energetic youthfulness of which a man half his age would have been envious. He never changed.
"Ron and I went back a long way – and I mean a long way, around 55 years. He and I worked together for a while on the Isle of Sheppey at the very start of our journalistic careers. I think Ron was about 17 and I was a year or two older.
"We worked for a local paper in Sheerness in 1964 and we were always racing around the Island in Ron's Mini-Cooper looking for stories. Even then Ron was not the kind of journalist to sit in an office and wait for stories to come to him.
"He was always full of ideas. Fifty years later, when our careers intertwined once more, he was still full of ideas, arriving in the office every morning with a whole string of suggestions for story creation.
"It was 1981 when we worked together again. I was appointed editor of the Kent Evening Post, the Kent Messenger Group's daily paper. I needed a deputy editor urgently and I had no hesitation in appointing Ron.
"Nearly 20 years on, from our days as trainee journalists, we were a team once again.
"More than a decade later, when I was appointed to a different role working for the KM in the Medway Towns, Ron became editor of Medway Today, the Evening Post's successor title. I had been his boss, now he was my boss. We just enjoyed working together again.
"Ron was a true gentleman, a kind, considerate individual and a superb journalist and editor who would always treat his staff fairly. I think anyone who ever worked in an office with Ron would agree with me when I say that you never felt you never worked for Ron, but that you worked with him.
Former Kent Messenger editor Bob Bounds said: "The whole of the Kent journalistic community will feel an acute sense of loss at this terribly sad news. Ron Green was one of the best journalists I have worked with, if not the best. He gave me my first opportunity in an editing role when I probably wasn't the obvious candidate and I always tried to live up to that faith.
"From the moment you came across him you knew he was something special; supremely able at all elements of the job. Everyone had immense respect for Ron and wanted to do their best for him. He was a great teacher, mentor and inspiration to all. Unlike some from 'his era' he embraced the digital age and was instrumental in driving the KM's early internet developments.
It's a cliche in such circumstances but it is absolutely true that no one had a bad word to say about him, and in the cut and thrust of journalism that's quite an achievement. He was absolutely passionate about the job and seemed supremely suited to the profession. I can say with confidence that he could have achieved anything he wanted in journalism, he was that good. We all tried to follow his example, but knew we'd never quite match him, yet there are literally hundreds of journalists who are better journalists because they were lucky enough to work with Ron."
Recently, Ron was back in print and online with a feature about the 1940 Battle of France, in which his father was taken prisoner of war.
Such was the quality of his work, the KM was inundated with messages from people keen to find out more and share their own stories.
Paulene added: "He loved writing that, and picked up so many new contacts. He was in his element."