Tributes have been paid to former Pontypridd & Llantrisant Observer and Rhondda Leader editor Dudley Stephens, who has died aged 76.
Prior to becoming editor of the newspapers in 1985 he had enjoyed a successful career in Fleet Street, including working for the Daily Sketch as a parliamentary correspondent before it merged with the Daily Mail.
He was also a reporter with the South Wales Argus and South Wales Echo.
He has been described as “quite simply a master of his reporting trade” with the knack to make the youngest reporter to the seasoned journalist feel very special.
Colleagues and friends said he had the ability to make everyone working in the Observer’s Welsh Harp office in Pontypridd feel like they were part of one big happy family.
An avid reader, Stephens – whose full name was Ernest Dudley Stephens – was also a brilliant chess player, becoming a Welsh junior champion at the age of 18.
Dennis Gethin, WRU president and former chief executive with Taff Ely Borough Council, described Stephens as a “consummate journalist who always had the community close to his heart”.
He said: “As a journalist, Dudley was second to none. I deem it a privilege to have known him and I know I speak for many who will miss him.”
Former Pontypridd, Wales and British Lions rugby player Tommy David said he was “shocked and saddened” by the news.
“It was always a pleasure to be in Dudley’s company. He always gave me great support during my playing days and I know he commanded the greatest respect both as an editor and a gentleman,” he said.
Former Rhondda Leader editor Kayrin Davies said: “I had the pleasure of working with Dudley on two separate occasions and he was a good colleague and friend. He was a true gentleman.”
Close friend and former colleague Dave Edwards said: “He was a delightful man who I am proud to have known as a friend.
“He was a true newspaperman who would fight tooth and nail for any injustice.
“During his time as editor he fought many a campaign and Ponty owes much to his battling qualities down through the years.
“I am so grateful that our friendship remained when we both finished writing our last newspaper story. Being in Dudley’s company was an absolute pleasure.
“He was a brilliant story teller, a good listener and never lost for a witty one-liner. I would tell people that if ever I was a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and I was asked to phone a friend that friend, without question, would be Dudley Stephens.
“Dudley was never one for material wealth. Just as long as he had a book to read, a glass to drink wine out of and a radio to listen to classical music he was in paradise.
“A visit to Ponty will never be the same for me now that Dud has gone.
“I am so grateful that I was fortunate enough to be at his bedside at the hospital the day before he passed away.
“Although very frail, he seemed to have found an inner peace and for the last time I was able to enjoy a treasured conversation with him.
“When we used to meet up in Ponty and talk about the classic films of a bygone era Dudley would say, ‘They don’t make them like that any more.’
“Do you know what? They don’t make them like Ernest Dudley Stephens any more.”
Stephens leaves a widow, Frieda, and sons, Rhys and Guy.