Mary Evans, a former EADT and Evening Star journalist who went on to be deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, has died after a short illness. She was 68.

Relatives, friends and colleagues yesterday paid tribute to a remarkable personality, whose sparkle, love of life and personal drive saw her achieve so much for others.

Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “Mary was a hugely dedicated and kind councillor and a dear friend. She was determined to make a difference for the residents of Suffolk, whether in Clare Division or as a Cabinet Member and Deputy Leader of Suffolk County Council.

“In the most difficult times during the pandemic, when we faced so much uncertainty, Mary was always a huge support to me and all our colleagues. Her contribution to our county can never be understated; she will be greatly missed by us all.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Mary campaigning with Mark Pendlington, Therese Coffey and James CartlidgeMary campaigning with Mark Pendlington, Therese Coffey and James Cartlidge (Image: Newsquest)

Crawford Gillan, a former editor of the Evening Star, said: “I first met Mary in the mid-1970s when we worked together on the evening paper in Cambridge. Not only was she a first-class reporter but she was great fun and had a disarmingly mischievous sense of humour. Along with my wife, we remained close friends for 45 years. We are devastated to lose her when she still had so much to offer.”

Richard, her husband of 47 years, said: “Mary was a shining star who stood out in any firmament, whether it be journalism, in a council chamber or at a party with family and friends. Above all, she was one of life’s ‘doers’ who possessed the rare knack of getting people, often with contrasting backgrounds or views, to work together for a common cause.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Richard and Mary on their wedding dayRichard and Mary on their wedding day (Image: Supplied)

Educated at Ipswich High School for Girls and Felsted, Mary met Richard in the news room at the EADT offices in Lower Brook Street in 1975 and they married the following year. 

After moving to the Cambridge Evening News, the couple gravitated to Westminster where Mary joined the Press Association parliamentary reporting team. 

On her final day in the job she achieved a nationwide scoop when she was the only journalist in Downing Street as Michael Heseltine stormed out of No 10 and told her he had just resigned from Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet. She went on to be political editor of the Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Western Mail in Cardiff.

A strong sense of public duty inherited from her parents, Jim and Elspeth Thom, saw her become a church warden, a volunteer with Oxfam and Riding for the Disabled after moving to Berkshire, while continuing her career. However, it was a return to Suffolk in 2004 which saw her involvement with community events and village life step up a gear.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mary was one of life's doers - here she is completely the London to Brighton 100km walk with friends in 2015Mary was one of life's doers - here she is completely the London to Brighton 100km walk with friends in 2015 (Image: Supplied)

She took over the chairmanship of Stansfield village hall which was under threat of closure and together with Fay Gridley and other villagers raised the best part of £100,000 through a host of events - theatre nights, annual fetes, Christmas shopping evenings - and groundbreaking initiatives. The latter included starting a very different kind of bridge club, complete with wine and food at half time, which quickly became, and remains, one of the most popular clubs in the county with 150 members.

Her success in renovating the hall caught the eye of the wider community and in 2013 Mary was elected with a thumping majority as the local county councillor for a sprawling rural area encompassing Clare and 15 villages. Despite her lack of local government experience, she was in her element. Her days of political journalism enabled her to cut through council red tape and waffle to get to the nub of any issue - and use her persuasive powers to help resolve problems. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Mary the county councllorMary the county councllor (Image: Supplied)

Most days started with a 30 mile dawn drive to the county council offices in Ipswich and ended with attendance at one or more evening parish council meetings (of which she missed very few). In 2017 she was also elected to west Suffolk borough council.

Mary proved to be a natural orator who went into bat regularly for the county council on Radio Suffolk (where she relished her one-to-ones with Mark Murphy) and her eye for a story invariably resulted in positive headlines.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mary and Richard at their Silver WeddingMary and Richard at their Silver Wedding (Image: Richard Evans)

“She loved her eight years as a county councillor, for which she was perfectly equipped, and was very proud of Suffolk. Whether it was helping out an individual, assisting one of her parishes or sorting out county wide issues, she put her heart and soul into it. I have little doubt had she started a few years earlier, she would have returned to Westminster as an MP - and she would have been a jolly good one,” her husband added.

“While people were invariably won over by her clarity of thought - and wonderful smile - she was made of stern stuff and did not suffer fools gladly, particularly when it came to the role of women in public life and women’s rights generally.

“But above all, Mary possessed a charm and a presence which could move mountains. I count myself very fortunate to have shared almost half a century with such a wonderful person.”

Details of her funeral will appear in due course on the website of Stansfield bridge club -