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Maisie Elfreda Hylton Pennant, a much-loved veteran of the Financial Times sub-editing desk and a prolific community volunteer, has died at the age of 59 after suffering a heart attack.
A life-long journalist, Maisie was valued as much for what she brought to friends and colleagues in a mothering and mentoring capacity as she was for her sharp eyes, calm manner and professionalism in the face of a deadline.
She was always impeccably dressed, in a colourful array of outfits, with accompanying brooch and coiffed hair courtesy of “my girl Pearl” — her hairdresser and confidante.
She was not one for going to the pub in between editions, unlike some of her colleagues, and instead filled her downtime at work with catching up with friends or reading the gossip in the tabloids. The sound of her approach would often signal a long and complex anecdote, always with a gem at the end to make it worth the wait.
Born in Jamaica in 1958, Maisie was brought to Britain by her adoptive parents when she was four, and grew up in Birmingham. After obtaining her A-levels from Swanshurst Grammar School, she took a journalism course at Richmond College of Further Education in Sheffield. She was hired by the Lichfield Mercury and rose to be senior reporter.
In 1980, lured back to studying at the University of Keele, she graduated with an upper second in international relations. That was followed by a stint at the Birmingham Post, where she began revising articles in the newsroom, designing the layout of pages and stone-subbing, the final check before pages were fitted to the presses.
In 1986 she joined the newly established Independent newspaper in London, where she worked for 12 years, as well as obtaining a law degree from the then Polytechnic of Central London.
She crossed the river to join the Financial Times in 1998, which had recruited a number of her colleagues from “the Indy”. She worked on the then night production team, which meant working on crucial parts of the paper, including the front page, and also gave her the space in her life to pursue her various social obligations.
She had a healthy scepticism of authority and was not interested in climbing the hierarchy — her talent lay in building bonds in the office, and she was generous with her ideas, wealth of experience and wisdom. She was a mother figure to many of her younger colleagues.
Outside the office, she was a school governor, a Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) mentor, and took on church and charity work, including at a homeless shelter at Christmas. She arrived at work early to learn sign language, so she could communicate with deaf people.
Ayesha Begum, at the SMF, said Maisie “went out of her way to find opportunities and resources” to support her mentee last year, an aspiring journalist.
Elizabeth Jordan, a friend from her time at Keele, said Maisie engaged “effortlessly with people from all walks of life”. Just before her death, she took a homeless man to lunch at St Mary Aldermary church in the City who she had helped clothe over the winter.
Dr Jordan added: “Maisie’s values were shaped by her Christian upbringing and underscored by both British and Jamaican culture. What I admired was the way she put her values into action.”
Maisie met her husband Trevor, who survives her, on a first-aid course and they married in 1993. Their daughter Olivia, who she nonchalantly referred to as “The Child” in a bid to mask her pride, is the access officer at Cambridge university students’ union.