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Tributes for former Sittingbourne and Sheppey newspaper editor John Rogers

Former colleagues have been paying tribute to "unflappable" newspaper editor John Rogers who ran the East Kent Gazette and Sheppey Gazette which served Sittingbourne and Sheppey.

Mr Rogers died on Sunday, May 3, after living with cancer for more than 20 years. He was 77.

John Rogers, former editor of the East Kent Gazette and Sheppey Gazette. Picture: The Rayner Collection
John Rogers, former editor of the East Kent Gazette and Sheppey Gazette. Picture: The Rayner Collection

David Jones, a former editor of the Kent Evening Post, said: "John was my first boss when I entered journalism at 17 at the end of 1963. He helped me tremendously during those formative years.

"He was what we might today describe as laid back. He was a talented journalist and totally unflappable. I don't recall him ever losing his temper, or even getting mildly irritated.

"He had a quiet, unassuming manner with a great sense of humour and was always the same whether in or out of the office. He always smoked a pipe, which somehow added to his permanent air of unflappability."

The pair first worked on the North East Kent Times, later to become the Sheppey Gazette, in a tiny office in Sheerness High Street now home to Washco.

Mr Jones, from Minster, recalled: "There were no computers then. We worked on typewriters which seemed to date back to the Second World War.

John Rogers, left, interviewing Ben and Vera Fowler, owners of the Ferry Inn at Harty. Picture: The Rayner Collection
John Rogers, left, interviewing Ben and Vera Fowler, owners of the Ferry Inn at Harty. Picture: The Rayner Collection

"For some reason, we worked every Saturday morning. One of my tasks was to put the morning's work into an envelope and take it to Sheerness railway station where it was put in the guard's van and then collected at Sittingbourne by someone from the print works. It all seems rather quaint now."

Mr Rogers was brought up in Kemsley and was a choirboy at Milton Parish Church.

He joined the Chatham, Rochester and Gillingham News in the early 1960s as a trainee reporter and remained with the paper until he was transferred to the East Kent Gazette in Sittingbourne in 1963 under chief reporter Gerald Hinks. He later worked his way up to deputy editor before getting his first editor's chair at the Kentish Independent at Woolwich.

He returned to Sittingbourne in 1981 as editor, taking over from Murray Evans, and remained there until taking early retirement in 1995.

Stephen Rayner from Faversham was appointed Mr Roger's deputy in 1987. He said: "I started on the Monday after the Big Storm had ripped through the lower half of Britain. I remember him as a kind and calm editor. It took a lot to make him shout at the reporters, although they sometimes deserved it!”

John Rogers, centre, and some of his staff at the East Kent Gazette and Sheppey Gazette including his deputy Christine Rayner on his left. Picture: The Rayner Collection
John Rogers, centre, and some of his staff at the East Kent Gazette and Sheppey Gazette including his deputy Christine Rayner on his left. Picture: The Rayner Collection

Mr Rayner's wife Christine was appointed Mr Rogers' deputy in 1989 and succeeded him as editor until the paper’s closure in 2011.

She said: "John was an easy man to work with, always approachable and fair.He never forgot his roots in Sittingbourne and was very proud of rising through the ranks to become editor of the local newspaper he had known all his life.”

Mr Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer a few months after his retirement and detailed his battle in the book Dying To Live.

He leaves a widow, Marlene, son Mark and daughter-in-law Alison who live in America with grandchildren James and Emma.

Mr Rogers lived in Sittingbourne and later in Conyer, Faversham and Ashford. The couple also had a home in Tenerife. He and his wife became tireless fundraisers for London's Royal Marsden Hospital where he was treated.

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