TOUCHING tributes have been paid to an avid Echo reader who wrote hundreds of letters for more than 30 years.

Charles “Chas” Cheesman, of The Grove, Southend, died of bowel cancer on August 18 only two months after his diagnosis and following years of being a familiar name to many on the Echo’s letters pages.

Writing letters every day after his retirement from Ford’s Basildon factory, he kept a folder with cuttings of his letters which were printed, dating back to 1976.

Each letter was written from his typewriter until it broke last year and he was forced to join the digital age with computers and email.

“When his typewriter broke, that was a headache,” says grandson Harry Cheesman, 21.

“He had to go on the computer and it was a task to get him used to it.

It was bad enough before when he needed a new ribbon for the typewriter, but he picked it up fairly quickly because, although he was 82, he was an intelligent man.”

Harry’s girlfriend Katie Wilson, 23, said he treated her like a granddaughter and said she very much saw him as a grandfather.

“He really loved the Echo,” she said. “He never really said how he got into writing so many letters, but I think he just really enjoyed expressing his opinions, writing and responding.

“He was really proud every time one his letters was published in the Echo.

That and his family were probably the two proudest things in his life.”

In recent years, Chas had letters published on everything from Dale Farm and York Road market to public sector strikes and hospital “moaners”.

Commenting in 2007 on the appearance of mobile urinals on the High Street, he sought to address the issue of gender inequality in the lack of any comparable facility for women.

“Don’t worry, ladies,” he wrote. “There’s a rumour going round that steps are being taken to purchase a load of plastic buckets to be placed on street corners around the High Street area.

At this rate, we will soon be part of the ThirdWorld.”

But Chas was not only known for his letter writing, says daughter Joanne, of Fernbrook Avenue, Southend.

She said: “While involved in the Scout movement he tried unsuccessfully to get comedians Frankie Howerd and Ken Goodwin to appear at the Scout Fair and was instrumental in the establishment of an important charity.

“He started the Essex Drugs Line in the 1980s.

Heroin was all over the place at that time, but there was no support for the families and he felt they needed someone to talk to.

“He would have phone calls really late at night from people saying they had come home and their son had sold all their furniture and would then do everything he could to get replacements for them.

“With my dad, it was all about the challenge.”

Charles leaves wife of 58 years, Maureen, 78, children Joanne and Gary and grandsons Harry and Jake.