Tributes paid to long-serving Advertiser journalist Valerie Bootle

A former Advertiser journalist who ‘was always trying to find a story’ has passed away at the age of 80.

Valerie Bootle, who lived in Cookham with her husband Robin, worked at the Advertiser for 27 years from 1975 to 2002, in which she spent most of her time covering the village.

She died at home on January 23 after recently spending time in hospital for advanced MS complications, where she caught COVID-19.

Born in St Helens, Lancashire, Valerie attended Birmingham University where she met her future husband.

She transformed the student newspaper there into a tabloid, which won several awards. The publication became a ‘springboard’ into the world of journalism, an industry in which Valerie enjoyed a long career.

Starting off at local papers in Coventry and Plymouth in the 1960s, Valerie’s attentions then turned to the nationals; working for the Sunday Observer and Sunday Times, and also the London Evening Standard.

But it was at the Advertiser where she spent the majority of her time covering the village she lived in, choosing to move to Berkshire after falling pregnant.

Co-authored with her husband, Valerie wrote a book on the area called ‘The Story of Cookham’, which was released in 1990.

Valerie had four children: Jack, Kate, Jenny and Richard.

Her son Jack said: “She was very gossipy but in a way that came from a nose for a great story, anywhere she went she would just get chatting to anyone. She would interview everyone she met.

“She was just always trying to find a story, and I remember her carrying her notepad and pen.

“I think she had a strong sense of justice; she loved a good campaign, and loved it if she thought she had uncovered wrongdoing.”

Daughter Kate added: “When I think of mum I just think of what a quick mind she had. She was so intelligent.

“She became a journalist in the 1960s when it was not considered a respectable profession for women, and her own dad used to tell his family that she was a social worker.”

Valerie – a lover of history and archaeology – married Robin – a TV director - in 1965 and moves around the country followed, spending time in Plymouth, London, Furze Platt, and Cookham, where she remained from 1973.

Her children were born at the former Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Cliveden. She also had three grand-daughters.

Working at the BBC now, Jack said that he has inherited some of his mother’s ‘DNA’ in that finding a good story ‘really excites him’.

“We both have very strong memories from childhood when we were in bed listening to the sound of type-writers. They would be there banging out stories, it is such a vivid memory.

“Mum was probably quite different as a journalist to how she was as a mother, she was so loving and kind to us.

“And she was fearless, like a dog with a bone, she would not let it go.”

Valerie retired in 2002 after her MS became too much for her to carry on with journalism, but she did return to the Advertiser for its 135th aniversary edition in 2004 as a special features writer.

She also took history courses at the University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education after hanging up her reporter hat.

Kate added: “We miss her terribly. Despite the considerable health challenges she faced in the last 15 years she was always smiling, interested in others and incredibly grateful to and appreciative of the friends and family in her life.”

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