A former Birmingham Post journalist and award-winning communications officer who defied doctors to walk down the aisle to marry his long term partner has died after a six month battle with cancer.
Aged just 44, father-of-two Neil Aitchison died on Sunday May 13 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.
Mr Aitchison spent five weeks in the hospital’s Deansley Ward last year after being told he could be paralysed and was unable to move.
However, just three weeks later, he walked unaided down the aisle at St Mark’s Church in Great Wyrley to marry Linda, his partner of 16 years.
Mr Aitchison, 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, Mr Aitchison worked at BBC Midlands Today, converting the TV news programme to online video content.
He also worked as a broadcast journalist with BBC West Midlands Online and Radio WM and as a reporter and on the news desk for the Post.
He freelanced for several BBC local radio stations and was a former communications officer at the University of Kent at Canterbury, where he had completed a degree in politics and government.
Mr Aitchison’s 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 news editor, and 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 and shortlisted for the Institute of Public Relations PRide awards 2005.
Mr Aitchison 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.”
Editor of the Post Alun Thorne also paid tribute to Mr Aitchison who he worked alongside for a number of years. He said: “Neil was just a thoroughly nice guy who was well regarded in the newsroom, not only for his skills as a journalist, but for his attributes as a human being. One of his most endearing traits was his unfailing optimism and it comes as absolutely no surprise that he faced his illness with such stoicism.
“For his life to be cut short in his prime is a real tragedy and I know that Linda and their girls have been in the thoughts of everyone who worked with him at the Birmingham Post during this terribly difficult time for them.”