Paul Baker, former photographer with The Press, has lost his battle with cancer at the age of 53. Anthony Chappel-Ross pays tribute to his friend and colleague.

Few people take special to a supreme level. It was obvious that Paul Baker was one of those people from the very start – born on the rarest of days, leap-year day.

Paul has sadly passed away, having celebrated his actual birthday on only 13 occasions. He was 53; far too young.

Life for Paul began in rural Earswick with parents Betty and Jack and his sister Katherine.

He loved all sorts as a young boy but it was the outdoors, the fresh air and the traditional fun that was his mainstay – hunting rabbits on neighbouring farms, fishing and interacting with all Mother Nature could offer. Most significantly he enjoyed just being free, often with his camera.

Being young and creative in an era of financial restraint, Paul came up with a novel way of sustaining his favourite hobby of fishing – he set up his very own maggot breeding station at the bottom of his garden.

In that same garden, having caught a rather splendid eel, he gutted it, preserving the skin, reworked it and fashioned it into a belt. Not bad for eight years old.

The belt was hung up to dry in the shed, but he later returned to find only the buckle and a guilty-looking black Labrador licking his lips.

Following school Paul enjoyed a stint at Rowntree’s and it was during this time, with his hair down to his waist, he met his future wife Val.

On seeing a vacancy at the Yorkshire Evening Press for a darkroom assistant, Val encouraged Paul to apply. He got the job and soon became one of the photographers, where he remained until his retirement in 2006.

Paul once recounted to me an occasion when he returned to his company car following a photographic assignment for The Press and struggled to get into it. Undeterred, he started to use force. He noticed a woman watching him from her front window but he persisted and eventually managed to get into the car.

By this time, the woman was on the phone and gesturing profusely. It was only then that Paul gazed into the rear-view mirror and saw the actual car belonging to the newspaper.

After leaving The Press, Paul, who lived in Everingham for more than 20 years before moving to Pocklington, was diagnosed with cancer, beating it not once but twice.

Tragically it was to be third time unlucky for Paul, a gentle and intelligent photographer.

Val, his wife and soulmate, has been robbed of their best years together.

Paul was the funniest person I have known and my personal, greatest sadness is knowing I will never laugh so loudly again.

Paul’s funeral will take place at the East Riding Crematorium, Langtoft, Driffield, at 10am on Wednesday, January 29.

Those attending are invited to wear a touch of green.