WEST DORSET: News of the death of former Bridport and Lyme Regis News journalist, musician and pilot Stephen Hunt has shocked former colleagues and friends.

Mr Hunt died aged 56, just two months after his June wedding to his partner of nearly five years, Pauline Messenger.

The couple were married in Yeovil Register Office, knowing they had only weeks left together.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus a year ago.

Former Bridport News editor Margery Hookings said: “I'm very shocked and saddened by Steve’s death. He was way too young. I knew him when he helped sub-edit the Bridport and Lyme Regis News about ten years ago. Steve – we all called him Shunt, because his name was S Hunt – was a one-off really, a practical joker with a very off the wall sense of humour.

“He also wrote a bit for my book My Kind of Town.”

Ex-colleague and former Bridport News chief reporter Chris Carson said: “It was a shock to hear of his death at such a young age.

“He was a professional man who followed in the footsteps of his father Michael who was also a local reporter for the Western Daily Press.”

Mr Hunt left Weymouth Grammar School to join his father Michael’s Weymouth-based national newspaper and television press agency and from there moved to the Bridport News to complete his training.

From Bridport, he moved to Wincanton as the staff reporter for the Western Gazette before being appointed Swindon-based staff reporter for the Western Daily Press, moving across to the Swindon Evening advertiser where he specialised in crime, leaving eventually to join the London-based press and public relations bureau of booksellers WH Smith.

He moved back to Weymouth in 1999 to join the Dorset Echo as a sub-editor where he stayed for several years, eventually leaving to settle in Castle Cary, Somerset, with Pauline and setting himself up as Strictly Entertainment, a solo music and singing act travelling around nursing and retirement homes and clubs in Dorset, Somerset, Devon, Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Although he worked for local and regional newspapers for 35 years, his interests from childhood were flying, travel and astronomy. He flew to countries around the world and this led him to train as a pilot, eventually earning his private pilot’s licence some six years ago.

His first passenger after qualifying was his dad and he proudly flew him over the Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire countryside to the Isle of Wight and back, apologising for a bumpy landing at the airfield near Shaftesbury which in fact his dad had thought was remarkably smooth. He was an accomplished paraglider.

Only three months ago, despite by this time already seriously weakened by his illness, he bought himself a new paraglider and launched himself off the cliffs near Bridport and circled the skies for 30 minutes.

He was the eldest of three sons of retired journalist Michael Hunt and the late Sheila Hunt, formerly of Chafeys Avenue, Weymouth, and stepson of Midge Hunt.

He died peacefully at his home in Somerset, with his wife and members of both families at his bedside.