Historian and journalist Don Hills, described as a "true legend" of Stevenage, has died aged 97.

Don was born in Fishers Green in 1926, and his parents moved on to run a small grocery shop in Haycroft Road in the Old Town, where Don grew up.

He attended Letchmore Road Boys' Elementary School and Alleyne's Grammar School, before leaving at 16 to develop a career in journalism.

Initially, Don worked for the Pictorial and Gazette as a reporter through the war years, based in Hitchin and Stevenage, as well as national Fleet Street Sunday newspapers.

He reported on many major local events, including Lewis Silkin's visit to Stevenage when it was first designated a new town.

Don went on to become press and public relations officer for Stevenage Development Corporation in the early 1960s, and then communications officer for Stevenage Borough Council.

He held the unique position of working for both authorities during the corporation's wind down and the council's take over.

Don helped establish town twinning partnerships with Ingelheim in Germany, Autun in France and Kadoma in Zimbabwe. His son, Andrew, described him as a "driving force" in forging the link with Ingelheim, "to establish friendship and reconciliation after the war."

A well-known and liked figure in Stevenage, Don was involved in supporting and developing many community projects and activities needed in a developing new town.

He enjoyed acting in the Elizabethans and the Lytton Players and, as an avid jazz fan, played drums in bands right into his retirement.

A keen historian, Don co-wrote the book Stevenage: A History from Roman Times to the Present Day with fellow historian Margaret Ashby, which was commissioned by Stevenage Borough Council to commemorate the new town's 60th anniversary.

In his retirement, Don moved to Hitchin and was an active fundraiser for the RNLI. He was also a member of Probus.

He continued writing columns on various topics for local magazines, and became a founder member of the Nuthampsted Airfield Museum for the 8th Air Force 398th Bomb Group and 55th Fighter Group.

At a full council meeting, members of Stevenage Borough Council paid tribute to Don.

Councillor Simon Speller said he was "a true legend of the new town of Stevenage". 

He continued: "He was an old towner who welcomed the new town whole-heartedly.

"Don was very active in many of the new town pioneer campaigns. 

"He helped create Stevenage Museum. He was a co-founder of the Lytton Players, and he supported lots of youth sports groups as they sprang up as the town's population grew. 

"Above all, I think we will remember him for being a crucial town twinning link between Ingelheim, Autun and Kadoma."

Former Comet editor Darren Isted added: "It was with great sadness that I heard about the passing of Don Hills.

"Don was a major figure in the development of Stevenage and played a pivotal role in communications for the borough council. 

"He was also a very kind and supportive person to those who knew him and will be sorely missed."

Don, who died at home on January 13, leaves behind his wife, Kathe, who he was married to for 72 years, and sons Antony and Andrew.

His funeral service will be held on Thursday at the LDS Chapel in Hitchin's Heathfield Road at 2pm, followed by a service at Harwood Park Crematorium in Stevenage at 3.30pm.