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Former Cheshire Life editor pays tribute to prolific North West journalist Diane Cooke

Diane Cooke, courtesy Janet Reeder

Former Cheshire Life style editor and freelance journalist Janet Reeder has paid tribute to the prolific former Manchester Evening News, Lancashire Telegraph and Woman’s Own journalist Diane Cooke, who passed away on January 14.

Reeder writes: “The phrase that has been most used to describe award-winning journalist Diane Cooke, who passed away on January 14 is a “force of nature”. How else could we define her? A loving mother, a writer of wit, intelligence, integrity and honesty, and a brilliant friend.

God, was she funny – and brave – who else would write a feature for the MEN about unflattering hairstyles through the decades, complete with perm and mullet-coiffed pictures of herself? Or about the hilariously embarrassing consequences of struggling to get out of a wetsuit.

Then there was the time she met the Pope with Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth) from Coronation Street in what I’m sure must have been one of the most “interesting” double acts ever to grace the Vatican.

She could write seriously though – about politics, sexual abuse, the down and dirty life in the city. She shone a spotlight on ordinary people and made them extraordinary, and most heartrending of all, she wrote about the suicide of her beloved husband Carlos Menendez.

Diane was never afraid to say what she thought, and she was never, ever dull. She would put most people before herself playing down her own sparkling talents and bigging up those of others. Honestly, I don’t think she even knew how amazing she was and in how much high regard she was held by everyone; from editors and colleagues to friends and the people she wrote about.

Forget about being objective, sometimes she just couldn’t help herself if someone was in need of her unflagging support, she was there.

She worked for many national and regional publications during her career, either as a staffer or freelancer, including The Bolton News, Woman’s Own, The Lancashire Telegraph and of course the Manchester Evening News. She also worked in PR, notably at Granada TV and Mason Williams.

I met her when she was Women’s Editor on the MEN in the 90s and 2000s. Cookie was tough but full of compassion. She took younger writers under her wing and nurtured their hopes and ambitions and when she left the MEN to go freelance, she embraced the world of online journalism, first setting up a local news website The Natter, and pre-Covid a lifestyle magazine, The Best Life Project.

She was loved by many, including her fantastic children Sebastian Menendez, a chef and Elisa Menendez a journalist with ITN, and there will be a huge Diane shaped space in our hearts that will never be filled by anyone as outrageous, lovely, warm, and generous again.”

Diane is survived by her children Elisa and Sebastian, mum Kath, sister Carolyn and brother Conrad.

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