Former Daily Mirror journalist Paula Howitt, who covered the Aberfan mining disaster in Wales for the paper, has died aged 86 following a short illness.
Howitt, known as Paula James throughout her career, died last month in Manchester where she retired after more than 40 years in the news industry. A funeral service was held on Friday.
Howitt started out her career at the Finchley Press in north London before heading to Fleet Street, where she worked at the Mirror from 1958 to 1976. She also spent a decade writing for the Folkestone Herald before retiring.
During her 18 years with the Mirror, Howitt covered human stories and what was then known as the “woman’s angle” on current affairs. She also worked as a royal and occasional foreign correspondent on the paper.
Notable assignments included touring Vietnam in the closing stages of the war and visiting Black Power prisoners in Washington. In her last years at the paper she wrote features for the Mirrorscope section and contributed a regular column.
According to Howitt’s son, Nick Woodeson, one of the most significant stories for his mother was reporting the 1966 mining disaster in Aberfan, Wales, which claimed the lives of more than 100 children.
He said: “The event shaped her passion as a writer, and her ability to convey with feeling and compassion the human story of lives caught up in events. Her pride was the many letters she received from parents and locals who were moved and helped by the compassion of her reporting.”
He added: “She was no soft touch and considered herself an equal always with men. She would never describe herself as a feminist, believing more in merit. She had an incisive wit and humour, and was a brilliant interviewer.
“She had the ability to talk to anyone and relate with anyone she met, but also an ability to perceive peoples’ motives and agendas.”
Howitt married Frank, then a reporter on the Daily Express, in 1975. Both took redundancy from Fleet Street a year later and moved to Deal, Kent, where they published The Channel Express newspaper targeting visitors to Dover and the Kent Coast from across the channel.
After it closed Howitt went on to run the newsdesk and write a column for the Folkestone Herald, where she worked until her retirement in 1995.
Said Nick: “Howitt was liked and loved by many – the well known, fellow journalists, fellow pub goers, cleaners, and carers. She was always both interested in others and interesting, opinionated always, and she simply loved the dramatic side of life and most of all her close family.”
Howitt is survived by her children Nick, Elizabeth, Tamsin and grand children George and Lara.