Calli Emiris, the longest serving member of staff on The Sunday Telegraph, has died aged 45 following a courageous three-year battle against cancer.
Calli joined the paper after leaving school when she was 18. She was assigned to the newsdesk, where she remained for the next 26 years, becoming a much-loved character and symbol of continuity. News editors and reporters came and went but Calli was always there, befriending those with whom she worked as if they were members of her own family.
Calli never married but was devoted to her sister Julia’s children, Frances and Jessica, and took a profound interest in the lives of reporters, sub-editors and secretaries.
She was responsible for almost the entire administration of the newsdesk – making sure contributors got paid, organising flights, trains and hotels, responding to letters, sorting out faxes and politely coping with callers determined to rant. She knew exactly how the organisation worked and the organisation knew exactly how Calli worked. She was meticulously honest and fair, and managed to keep a cool head when all about her there was mayhem. And her sense of humour was something that not even her illness could ever conquer.
One Christmas, when the paper was still in Fleet Street, Calli was told by her news editor that the news room would be doing without decorations. She took a dim view of this and went out at lunchtime to buy as many ribbons and bows as she could, draping them over the news editor’s desk. Calli loved cats. When, shortly before she died, she was told that one cat means you’re suspect, two means you’re mad, she made a point of plastering her terminal with cat pictures.
The busiest day on The Sunday Telegraph is Friday, when nerves and tempers can begin to fray. Calli was an expert in assessing the mood, making a special effort to help those under pressure and protecting others from unnecessary interference. Often she would pop out of the office and return with fruit or chocolates which she would distribute to her weary troops. She was a brilliant listener and although she held strong opinions she was remarkably unjudgemental.
Calli, who had a strong face and deep voice, served under five different editors – John Thompson, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, Trevor Grove, Charles Moore and Dominic Lawson. It is no surprise that St Bride’s Church was filled to capacity on Monday as colleagues old and new gathered for her funeral service.
Calli was one of those people who can justifiably be called a "Fleet Street institution". But, more important, she was a greatly loved human being and she will be deeply missed.