A former Midlands journalist and award-winning communications director has died, aged 44, six months after being diagnosed with skin cancer.
Father-of-two Neil Aitchison died on Sunday (13 May) at Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital where he had been treated for malignant melanoma since he was diagnosed with the terminal stage of the disease in November last year.
Neil spent five weeks in the hospital’s Deansley Ward last year after being told he could be paralysed and was unable to move. Just three weeks later, he walked unaided down the aisle at St Mark’s Church, Great Wyrley to marry Linda, his partner of 16 years.
Neil, of Cheslyn Hay, worked as the new media director at Cannock’s Passionate Media, recently renamed The Marketing Room, since August 2008, when he joined from Warwick University, where he had been online editor.
He helped to produce Warwick’s innovative video programme, Warwick iCast, which featured weekly films on international research at the university.
As a journalist, Neil worked at BBC Midlands Today converting the TV news programme to online video content. He was also been a broadcast journalist with BBC West Midlands Online and Radio WM and worked as a copytaster and reporter at the Birmingham Post.
He freelanced for several BBC local radio stations and is a former communications officer at the University of Kent at Canterbury, where he’d completed a degree in politics and government.
His early years in reporting were spent as editor of the Uttoxeter Advertiser, before moving on to cover health for the Worcester Evening News, where he met Linda, who was the news editor, later joining the Leicester Mercury.
He also worked as communications manager at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and editor of the Forensic Science Service’s magazine, Clued-Up – a position that saw him scoop a Communicators in Business Award of Excellence in 2004.
Neil leaves his wife Linda and their twin daughters, Emily and Melissa, aged 13.
Linda said: ‘The past few months brought the sorts of challenges that nobody should face. Neil’s nurses and doctors told him how much respect and admiration they had for him because of the way he met those challenges head on, got himself moving and proved their predictions wrong.
‘As a colleague Neil was patient, diligent and hardworking. As a husband and father he was the absolute best and we are blessed to have had his love in our lives. Marrying Neil after all these years gave us both such joy.”