The Surrey Comet’s features editor June Sampson last night became the first woman to be awarded the freedom of the borough of Kingston.
Seven months after being hit by a car outside Kingston Hospital which left her with multiple serious injuries, Mrs Sampson was at the Guildhall in Kingston to receive an illuminated scroll conferring her as an honorary freeman.
She received a standing ovation from those assembled at Guildhall for the annual council meeting.
As she was handed the scroll by outgoing mayor Penny Shelton, Mrs Sampson joked: “I hope this goes in the Surrey Comet!”
In a moving speech, Mrs Sampson spoke of her love for both Kingston and the Surrey Comet, where she has worked for 40 years.
Mrs Sampson said: “I have always been in love with Kingston. I don't mind admitting it. I'm also in love with the Surrey Comet.
“I'm so glad that the Surrey Comet gave me the opportunity to find out all I did about Kingston and the time to write it.
“Kingston isn't just a nice place - it's a wonderful place with a unique history.
“I can't tell you how honoured I feel to still be alive to have this award.”
Mrs Sampson was joined on the night by her family – husband and former Comet news editor Hilton Tims, daughter Anna and son Oliver.
Surrey Comet editor David Rankin said: “To think that June Sampson has dedicated 40 years of her life serving and writing about the borough of Kingston is incredible in itself.
“But to see her honoured in such an exception way was a genuinely humbling experience.
“I’ve worked with June for 14 years and her dedication and passion for the job are an example to us all.
“Thank you to Kingston Council for bestowing this honour – it was a wonderful evening and thoroughly deserved.”
Conservative councillor David Cunningham said: “Kingston does not easily grant these freedoms, as you can see from the plaque at the back of the room where the names of previous custodians are shown.
“These are people who have made a significant contribution, over a period of time, to the life and work of the royal borough.
“[June] has over the years given Kingston that sense of belonging to the great town that it is, not only for its past, but for her insight into its present.
“She has moulded the town in the minds of the residents more completely than any planning committee or developer.”
Lib Dem leader Coun Liz Green said: “For the last 40 years June has promoted Kingston's heritage and celebrated its past.
“She has promoted a pride in place and her work has connected residents of the borough with their past.
“Without June's regular articles and published books, knowledge of Kingston's past amongst residents would certainly have been poorer.”