TRIBUTES have poured in for award-winning Hartlepool Mail journalist Paul Watson who tragically died at the weekend.
Just a few days ago, Head of News Paul left a message at a dedication ceremony to encourage people to become organ donors.
It read: “There is nothing more precious than the gift of life. Organ donors help to make that possible.”
He was so moved by the event at the University Hospital of Hartlepool he discussed it with his long-term partner Pauline Scott and asked her to make a promise that should anything happen to him, she would agree to donation.
Tragically, just days later Paul suffered a massive heart attack from which he never recovered. Despite a battle to save him, he died on Sunday aged 50.
Since his death, the Mail and Pauline have been inundated with messages and tributes made to a truly “much-loved” and “respected” man who spent his life helping others.
Yesterday three people’s lives were saved in transplant operations from organs donated by Paul in what was a last selfless act.
Sunderland-born Paul joined the Mail as news editor in 2007 having spent a decade working for the Press Association and for the Sunderland Echo before that.
He quickly built up an impressive list of contacts throughout the town, and his portfolio of work saw him crowned as the North East Journalist of the Year at the prestigious Cordner Awards in 2009.
After progressing to the position of Head of News in 2010, Paul was involved in some high-profile events in the town including the Mail’s Pride in Hartlepool awards which rewarded unsung heroes, and the annual Best of Health Awards which celebrated the talent and commitment of professionals in the healthcare sector.
He was heavily involved in many campaigns with the Mail, helping to raise cash and awareness for numerous worthy causes.
Away from work, Paul was well-read and enjoyed spending time with Pauline and his family. He also had a passion for Celtic Football Club.
He leaves behind Pauline, his mum, Elizabeth O’Brien, sister Pat Watson, and nephew Jordan Watson.
Pauline said: “Paul was a very special, wonderful person who touched many people’s lives, whether it was on a professional or personal level. We will miss him terribly.
“On behalf of myself, his mum, Pat and Jordan, we would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and messages, love and prayers we’ve received, not just for him but for our welfare too. It really is much appreciated.”
Joy Yates, Hartlepool Mail editor, said: “The Hartlepool Mail newsroom has been in total shock at the extremely sad loss of Paul. The newsroom will never be the same again.
“Paul was hugely popular with his colleagues and with everyone he met through his role as Head of News.
“Paul didn’t just make contacts, he made friends.
“He was proactive within the Hartlepool community and was proud to work with me on our Pride of Hartlepool and Best of Health awards. He will be missed by all those who had the privilege to meet him.
“My sincerest, deepest thoughts are with Paul’s partner Pauline and his family.
“Paul, it was an honour to know you.”
Stuart Birkett, Northeast Publishing Unit managing director, said: “Paul was always the most cheerful person around the office.
“But most importantly he was an excellent journalist and model employee.”
‘The epitome of a true journalist’
MANY of the people Paul dealt with on a daily basis got in touch with the Mail newsdesk yesterday to pass on their condolences, highlighting the esteem in which he was held in and around Hartlepool.
They included Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond, who said: “Paul was an outstanding journalist who always conducted himself with the highest integrity.
“He was a real news man who was very thorough and fair in the way he reported key issues affecting people in the town.
“He will be missed and our thoughts at this moment are with his family and friends.”
Helen Watts, marketing manager at Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: “We were deeply saddened to hear the news of Paul’s passing.
“Paul will be greatly missed by the college as he was a real friend and advisor to us.
“Our thoughts are with his family at home, and his family at the Mail.”
Press Association Newswire editor Teilo Colley said: “In almost 10 years at the Press Association, Paul was the consummate professional, always fast, fair and accurate in his reporting and always willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of the story.
“News of his sudden death has shocked his former PA colleagues in the north and elsewhere. He will be missed.”
Gus Robinson Developments Ltd also paid tribute to Paul, saying: “We were truly saddened to hear of Paul’s death – he was a gentleman and true professional; nothing was ever too much trouble.
“We had a good working relationship with Paul but he was also a friend to many of our staff, he will be sadly missed.
“Our sincere condolences go to his family and colleagues at this difficult time.”
Claire Young, spokeswoman for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust, said: “We were shocked and saddened to hear about Paul’s death.
“Paul was the epitome of a true journalist; totally professional, thorough and well loved and respected by all who knew him.
“He was also thoughtful, witty and a true gentleman, bringing his unique view of life to every situation in which he found himself.
“On a professional level we have lost a fantastic journalist who we’re sure has inspired many others.
“On a personal level we have lost a good friend and, when the pain of his passing has become less painful, we will remember him with fondness.
“Our thoughts go out to Pauline and his family.”
A personal tribute by Gavin Foster
The words “much-loved” and “respected” sometimes become a bit of a cliché when someone dies – but in the case of Paul Watson they are true in every sense.
I came to know Paul as a cub reporter.
He was a guiding hand at the Sunderland Echo as I bumbled around the patch. Later when he worked at the press association we worked on some of the biggest stories around at the time, albeit on opposite sides as I worked for another news agency.
They were great times. We became close friends.
He was one of the first on the guest list at my wedding and as I had my family he was always there, with his life companion Pauline close by.
Paul was the reassuring nod, the uplifting chat, the calming hand. I was thrilled when Paul came to work alongside us at the Mail. Newsrooms can be stressful environments – but he was the one who always put things into perspective.
As anyone who met Paul or had the briefest chats with Paul will testify, he was just a great bloke. So genuine, so thoughtful. He would help anyone.
From the hardest criminals, to the distraught mum, from the street cleaner to the chief executive... he treated them all the same – with honesty and integrity. There was no edge to Paul. What you saw and heard was what you got.
And it was this trait that earned him so much respect as a journalist and a person and why he was an inspiration to any cub reporter wanting to know how to get the job done.
After covering an organ donor memorial event just over a week ago, Paul had discussed with his partner about donating his organs. And in a last selfless act he has done just that. Still helping others even after his death.
I’m not a religious person, but Paul was a believer.
And I would like to think there was a fantastic place for someone like Paul already waiting – it is the least he deserves. But it might be some time before he gets through the Pearly Gates!
Anyone who knows Paul will know he can natter.
You ask a simple question and when you hear the words “Well, what it is is...” or “By virtue of the fact that...” you knew you were in for the long haul.
So good luck St Peter!
Whoever writes Watson’s World in the future will have a tough act to follow.
For all the trials, tribulations, setbacks and problems Paul shouldered and overcame over the years, he still believed Watson’s World was a wonderful one.
To a true gentleman, I will miss you.
Paul, you were a diamond... keep shining.