Betty Hale obituary

<span>After retiring Betty Hale embarked on a French degree and spent several years living for part of her time in Paris</span><span>Photograph: Family</span>
After retiring Betty Hale embarked on a French degree and spent several years living for part of her time in ParisPhotograph: Family

My aunt, Betty Hale, who has died aged 96, had a rich and varied life as a journalist and literary agent.

Working on the pop music magazine Fabulous (which became Fab 208) from 1964 onwards, she met and interviewed the stars of the era including the Beatles, Marianne Faithfull, Gene Pitney, the Osmonds and the Monkees. She was later appointed editor of Fab 208, and when the magazine ceased publication in the early 1980s she became managing editor of Woman until she retired in 1985 to start up her own literary agency, Brilliant Ideas.

Born in Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire, to Edith (nee Baker), a primary school teacher, and James Hale, an insurance clerk, Betty attended Windsor county girls’ school until 1943 but, following the death of her father, was compelled to find work.

She started as an assistant in a publishing house before going to Amalgamated Press (which later became part of the IPC group) where she was swiftly promoted to editorial assistant with Woman and Home and Home Companion. As a small girl, I was fascinated by the layouts that she worked on in the evenings. She worked on Marilyn, a comic strip magazine with romantic stories, before moving to Fabulous (later Fab 208) in 1964, and also editing Rave magazine.

In 1953 she had married Eric Tommey, an insurance assessor, but kept her marriage quiet from IPC, lest her career should be curtailed.

Betty’s enthusiasm and drive did not diminish with age. A couple of years after Eric’s death in 1989, she wound up her agency and, shamed by her lack of confidence in French, she embarked on a degree course with Roehampton College. She spent a year in Paris, studying at the Institut Britannique and continued to live partly in London and partly in Paris for several years. She was passionate about art and opera and I enjoyed accompanying her when I was invited to Paris. She loved swimming and walking and took part in walking holidays in both France and the British Isles.

She earned a master’s degree in cultural memory in 2005 from the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies at the University of London, wrote papers for the Radlett Literary Society, mined her family history and launched campaigns against intrusive local planning applications – her curiosity and wholehearted commitment to research only began to diminish as she developed dementia in her 90s.

Although she had no children of her own, she took an active interest in her family and friends. We feel truly fortunate to have been part of the life of such an interesting and generous woman.

She is survived by her sister, Guida (my mother), and by three nieces, Eleanor, Zoë and me, and three nephews, Simon, David and Nicholas.