FORMER Leader feature writer Tony Challis has died.

Tony, 67, lived in Rhos, and had been a patient at the Maelor Hospital for just over a month. He died at the home of his daughter on Thursday morning with his family around him.

The father of five was brought up in East Grinstead and spent some time in Canada before returning to Britain where he became a freelance journalist working for a number of national newspapers. He joined NWN for the launch of the Evening Leader in 1973 and with his family lived for many years in Tainant near Penycae.

He was the Evening Leader’s news editor for 14 years before turning his considerable writing skills to the features desk where he remained until his retirement in 2007. He was also the paper’s long standing motoring writer and was a founder member of the Welsh Motoring Writers group.

Barrie Jones, NWN’s editorial director said: “Tony Challis was an outstanding journalist although his crafted writing style went way beyond ordinary reporting. He was an old fashioned perfectionist and his abilities brought insight and appeal to the most mundane subject matter. He was also a great character in the newsroom and was held in very high regard by his former colleagues at the Leader. He really will be missed.”

Leader features editor Joanne Shone, who worked closely with Tony for many years, said it was a great shame he had not had more time to enjoy his leisure time having worked so hard over a long career.

She said: “It was a pleasure working with such a talented wordsmith. Tony had a real flair for feature writing and his work was widely admired.

“He has a passion for the theatre and thoroughly enjoyed reviewing local productions, particularly at Clwyd Theatr Cymru , where his opinion was regarded in high esteem.

“Tony also reported on many local campaigns and once delivered a petition to Number 10 Downing Street signed by thousands trying to save the future of the Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was there for the last tap at Brymbo steelworks and a lifelong environmentalist.

“Most of all I shall remember a sharp witted, quietly spoken highly intelligent much valued colleague who will be deeply missed.”

Associate editor Steve Rogers, who worked with Tony for more than 30 years, described him as an “uncompromising but compassionate journalist.”

He said: “There was no better writer in the company than Tony Challis. He learned his trade in Fleet Street and was a no-nonsense journalist who was not afraid to ask difficult questions or fight his corner. He was uncompromising but always fair and compassionate as well as possessing a considerable wit. He was a loyal friend who will be greatly missed.”

The funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.