It was to bad news that family, friends and colleagues woke up to early on Monday morning; news that well-known journalist, Linda Stafford, had died leaving her husband, Basil and three sons: Josh, Dom and James. Stafford was associate editor at the Financial Mail, and oversaw its popular lifestyle section, FM Life. Here, friends and colleagues pay tribute to a woman who touched their lives in so many ways.
A witty wordsmith
The Linda I met in the 1980s was witty, attractive, socially adept and a great wordsmith. She could party with the wealthy and not so wealthy with equal abandon. She was the one to watch, a rising star journalist with passion and energy.
In the 1990’s she and I were connected again when she wrote for a couple of Financial Mail Ad Focus annuals. Her insight into advertising was refreshingly honest, her copy brave and inspiring.
Our paths went in different directions for a while and I re-connected with her through the late Gwen Gill. We would visit the bed-ridden Gwen, Linda with Woolies snacks that Gwen loved and me with the imported champagne that Linda and I loved. The three of us would gossip about the media industry and share memories and dreams.
I gathered that these were important interactions for Linda. In Gwen she had a mentor who understood her and we were friends she could confide in. I got to see a different side of Linda. She hated getting older and reminisced often about her younger years (don’t we all). It was evident that her prodigious writing talents were not being used, leading to great frustration. She worried that she was not the best Mother she could be, despite evidence to the contrary. She fretted over her inability to assist friends who had hit on hard times.
But mostly she sought reassurance that she was a good person. She was and I will miss her.
Sandra Gordon. Friend. Publisher at Wag the Dog.
The FM will be less joyful without her
There are lots of journalists to whom the word “professional” can apply. Linda was one of those. But that only begins to explain what made her so good at what she did.
Hard-news reporters might sniff at lifestyle journalism but there is enormous skill in doing it successfully. Linda was among the best: not just in her writing but also in recognising what readers wanted. Her enthusiasm for what she did was unbounded. And she knew just about everybody.
I’ve lost count of the number of Financial Mail planning meetings at which the editor or section head expressed despair at being able to get hold of someone at the centre of an important story and Linda would pipe up: “Oh, but I had drinks with him at a party the other day!” or “His wife/mistress/sister is my friend.” Access sorted.
Like everyone else, Linda could be ratty if an editor got pompous or one of her writers let her down. The difference was, with Linda it didn’t last. She was soon back to her usual positive self – particularly if she had the opportunity for a lunchtime glass or two of wine. Then, the problem was not bad temper, but unstoppable giggles and her trademark throaty laugh.
I’m not the only person on the FM to have worked with Linda over many, many years. She was part of our lives. The FM will be less joyful without her.
David Furlonger. Editor-at-Large. Financial Mail
‘It’s always that throaty chuckle I think of’
What can I say? Linda was always a darling, so positive about her friends. She was so full of praise and kindness. Sometimes you knew she was down or maybe struggling with personal issues but she had that knack of always brushing away any of her own problems and focusing on whoever she was with.
She was always exceedingly generous, not just with thoughtful gifts for no particular reason, but with her praise, encouragement, and wit. I loved her ready wit. Linda did not suffer fools gladly and could make you screech with laughter at certain pithy asides when she thought certain people were being too bombastic or full of themselves.
She confessed she was terrified of dogs and German Shepherds in particular. I happen to have THREE large and boisterous German Shepherds and she overcame her fear of them to visit me at home several times but not without trepidation…we are both quite shortsighted and she would stare in horror at discarded brown fir cones lying all over the house and say: “OMG is that what I think it is?”
This always made me laugh; I’d say well, you’d better not tread on it, just in case…
It’s always that throaty chuckle I think of…with Linda, you invariably ended up laughing a lot.
Caroline Hurry. Friend. Editor-in-chief of Travelwrite.
The yin and yang of our lives
What does one say about someone with the euphoric personality that Linda had, who loved life, but found it hard to cope with, who wrote with such wit and intelligence, yet didn’t believe in her own brilliance; who was as opinionated and as she was vulnerable; who rode life’s roller coaster with such helplessness that we all tried to protect her from, but never quite succeeded – so we laughed too much, drank too much, gossiped too much and just had a ball with her, knowing in the end that that indomitable spirit would deliver a great feature for us – feisty and honestly.
She loved her Puffin with all her heart, her Josh more than life itself and mostly, amongst others, Basil’s boys, her huge circle of friends, her food, her books, her booze, her travels and her kitties, also, very much.
She was the yin and the yang of our lives, the bottom and the top. She was Linda, passionate, contradictory, knowledgeable and fun loving, she knew it all, she had been through it all. She was warm and caring, loyal and loving and above all, hugely talented.
She cried and laughed with me, and at me, she never bore a grudge and she lived life to the full right to the end.
Together, with so many others, I will miss her contribution to my life, personally and professionally beyond words.
They broke the mold when they made Linda Stafford. She was one in a million.
Rest in Peace darling Staffie, my dearest most beloved, most fragile friend.
Ann Wallis Brown. Friend. COO at HWB Communications
Of luxury and ‘dishy’ rangers
Linda was responsible for allocating trips for the travel section at the Financial Mail. She always allocated the outdoor stuff to me and others but kept the luxury safari lodges for herself.
When I once asked her about it she replied: “You like all the bushy stuff – for me a lodge is all about the decor, food and the dishy rangers.”
Like all of us, I will miss her spontaneity and great sense of humour. And there will be no one to guide me on whether a restaurant is worth a visit or not.
Sven Lunsche. Former colleague. Public Affairs: Goldfields
Linda Stafford’s memorial service will be on Friday February 17 at 3pm at the Inanda Club.