Tributes paid to LBO's former chief reporter Mick King who was at the cutting edge of journalism in the Leighton Buzzard area
'I found him to be such a positive man and happy to report more the good news, the volunteers and selfless people we have in our town'
Tributes are being paid to the LBO's former chief reporter, Mick King, who spent nearly 22 years of his life at the cutting edge of local journalism.
Mick, 74, died peacefully on Thursday after being diagnosed with cancer, leaving behind his wife Elaine and brother Stephen.
He joined the LBO as a reporter in 1990, although older readers will know that before joining the team full-time, Mick wrote a freelance column and was associated with the paper for a quarter of a century.
Reflecting on his time as a journalist upon his retirement in 2011, Mick said: "I remember my first cheque, how it gave me a buzz that I had been paid the massive sum of £25 for something I had written.
"The power of the press is a term oft’ bandied about... well I never much cared about the power, but I liked the way it opened doors normally shut to the general public.
"So many [memories] it’s hard to pick a favourite.
"If I had to, however, I’d probably choose going behind the scenes at Tring Natural History Museum and accompanying former Whipsnade Zoo vet Richard Koch on his rounds.
"I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some great characters, especially when I went out and about in the villages."
Mick described crime as his "preferred beat" and enjoyed being "on the spot when something kicked off", while he watched the "hurly-burly of local politics from the sidelines", "biting his tongue" on occasions, and reporting matters without bias.
Remembering his love of reporting, Mick's wife Elaine, 70, told the LBO: "He enjoyed the court cases and going out with the police. It fascinated him really, especially when he went to the Old Bailey to work on murder cases.
"At one point he used to write reviews for theatres and cinemas; he enjoyed all of it to tell you the truth."
Mick grew up in Heath and Reach and was working "on the bins" before he stepped into the world of journalism.
The determined writer attended night school to gain his O Level in English and sent stories to the LBO to be printed, before being offered a job.
Paying tribute to Mick, Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor Gordon Perham said: "I remember when I was the Mayor and we had some good chats and laughs he was very supportive and thought highly of our town .
"I particularly remember the celebration of his retirement and am trying to find some photos of us arms around each other laughing. He was wondering how he would fill his time but he was so looking forward to it.
"I found him to be such a positive man and happy to report more the good news, the volunteers and selfless people we have in our town .
"I am sorry to hear is no longer with us but I will be thinking of him when I look back of those old photos."
Leighton-Linslade Town Councillor Karen Cursons said: "I am gutted beyond words, Mick was a people reporter, he followed me when I did cat rescue for many years. I had some feral kittens and he asked me to pick them up but I declined and suggested he did. Mick soon realised it wasn't such a good idea.
"Later he did a beautiful tribute to my late daughter Ruth. He visited us a few weeks after she died. He was the only reporter we spoke to because he cared and he met her. He was an amazing man with a great heart. He followed me when I was town mayor and I have a beautiful album of his cuttings because of him. My thoughts are with his family and friends."
Former LBO reporter Sarah Holmes, who worked alongside Mick for many years, said: "I am so sad to hear of the passing of a friend and fellow journalist, Mick King. Mick was such an inspiration to me in my 12 years at the LBO.
"He went from dust man to journalist with various other vocations in between, gaining much life experience along the way.
"It just goes to show that really good writers and journalists don't necessarily have a degree! Go drive that big dust cart in the sky Mick!"
Mick also spent time driving JCBs, but it was whilst working in the countryside that he struck up a bond with the woman he would marry.
Remembering her late husband, Elaine said: "I used to work at the quarantine kennels on Bragenham Lane, and Mick was cutting the fields, hay making.
"I was about 16. We got engaged at 18 and married when I was coming up to 20.
"We clicked quite well really. Mick has always been on the quiet side - completely different to his brother.
"Where we live it's quite quiet, that's what Mick liked the most, a peaceful, quiet life."
The couple got engaged at the Axe and Compass and were married in 1970 at the register office in Leighton Buzzard High Street.
Their wedding reception was held at the Red Lion, Heath and Reach, and the couple enjoyed many happy years together in the village, marking their golden wedding anniversary in 2020.
Aside from his work as a journalist, Mick was a keen walker, and had completed Coast to Coast trails, climbed Ben Nevis and taken on the Three Peaks challenge.
He also adored spending time with his three dogs, Seamus and Compo the Jack Russells, and Buffy the rescue Collie-cross from Romania, taking them to 'Stockgrove' for walks.
Elaine said: "He was definitely an animal lover - if there was a spider in the house you couldn't kill it.
"He also used to love reading and DVDs, cowboys, war films - there must be about 300 DVDs in front of me!"
Mick had been reading Stephen King's new novel Billy Summers before he died, while his favourite film was Stand By Me, based on the author's classic novel The Body.
Elaine would like to say a huge thank you to their neighbours Ian and Becky Chivers, who have been "a lifeline" to the couple. She would also like to thank the carers from Central Beds who treated Mick with dignity and respect in his last few weeks.
The LBO will be publishing details of Mick's funeral when it is arranged and Elaine would like friends and family to wear casual clothes and something green, Mick's favourite colour.
And true to his love for animals, any donations will go to overseas to support donkeys which are used for labour.
Elaine concluded: "Mick was a good husband, a good friend, and a good brother to his brother."
Send your memories of Mick to [email protected]