Heartfelt tributes have been paid to former face of the Gazette Joyce Auty, who has died aged 66.
The much-loved former receptionist, from South Shields, worked for the paper from 1966 until retiring two years ago this month.
She loved her job and the people she worked with. To me, she was the face of the GazetteMargaret Hilburn
Joyce, a mum to Andrew, 32, was the first port of call to those visiting the Gazette’s office in Chapter Row, and later Beach Road.
She became well-known to so many as a caring, warm lady who helped those who visited reception – often grieving families looking to place a death notice in the paper – with sensitivity and compassion.
Joyce’s long-time colleague and friend Margaret Hilburn has paid tribute to a “one-off”.
She said: “I’ve got fabulous memories of Joyce.
“I first met her in 1990 when I started at the Gazette, and remained friends with her when I transferred to the Sunderland Echo before returning to the Gazette.
“She was my best friend and my confidant. She was my wing woman, and my go-to person if I needed any help. Her life was the Gazette. She loved her job and the people she worked with. She was just a one-off. To me, she was the face of the Gazette.”
Joyce often helped out with charitable ventures launched by the Gazette, including the Toy Appeal, while she also helped the charity Cruse Crew.
She started out as an office junior and filled a number of posts at the newspaper over the years, including completing photographic orders and working in ‘paste up’, laying out pages for publication in the pre-digital era.
She settled into her familiar role as receptionist in the early 1990s, offering comfort and consolation to our readers in times both happy and sad. Joyce passed away after problems with her liver.
Another former Gazette stalwart, Janis Blower, added her own tribute.
She said: “I knew and worked with Joyce for nearly 45 years, and could not have wished for a better friend and colleague.
“She cared passionately about the Gazette and its readers, to whom, over the front counter, she generously extended help, advice and support, sometimes at sensitive and difficult times in their lives. It says a great deal about her that some of them themselves became friends over the years.
“She extended the same generosity of spirit to those she knew and worked with, and I will miss her deeply.”
Gazette editor Joy Yates said: “Joyce’s death has caused a great deal of sorrow at the Gazette. I worked with Joyce for many years and she was, very often, the first person anyone met when they arrived at the Gazette office. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”