Terry Challis was the funniest person I have ever met.

Once, I made just such a claim to a friend of mine who could be regarded as a contender, and, understandably, he looked a touch crestfallen before saying: “Really?”

A year later they both attended a dinner party and on the way out, my friend turned and said: “You are right. He is also the funniest person I have ever met.”

Terry, whose cartoons enlivened The Watford Observer since 1972, had studied humour all his life. It has been said Bob Monkhouse had collected every single joke he could find and filed them in a special room. Terry had the file in his brain and could imitate stars from stage and radio from the 1940’s until the present day, and replicate their material.

I can recall a few years back, a couple of office colleagues, perhaps indulging in the arrogance of youth, remarked: “Why are you so funny. You shouldn’t be. You are 60.”

His humour bridged generations. Simply, he had a humorous way of looking at life and he had a joke to suit every occasion as he embraced every form of humour and, in his day, produced cartoons for all manner of publications, including those found on the top shelf.

Be it observed, ironic, sarcastic, puns or even racial, Terry understood the mechanics and provided stunningly funny examples. In short, he was an expert on humour and could use it in all situations.

On one occasion, an old salt from Fleet Street turned to Terry in the press box and remarked that black players could not take the physical attention because they were “chicken”.

Terry did not bat an eyelid in the face of such extreme thinking. He accepted its existence and his riposte oozed with withering logic: “Yes, I always thought that about Jack Johnson, Joe Louis and Muhammed Ali . . . all chickens.”

I remember once when a fan admitted he would often get confused as to which was Luther Blissett and which was John Barnes when the two black players appeared for Watford.

“It is easy,” retorted Terry,. “If Luther’s colour is midnight, Barnesy’s is quarter past ten.”

I am happy to recall such anecdotes were part of the rich tapestry of my life as Terry and I sat next to each other at home games and travelled together to some 1,500 Watford games.

I was never a lover of sports cartoons but Terry’s won me over for they could have been written by a man on the terraces at Vicarage Road, and indeed they were. Terry was a lifelong fan of Watford FC, so he had his finger forever on the pulse of terrace thinking. He even painted his camper van yellow and black replete with a red stripe.

Terry accepted there were a succession of personalities at Vicarage Road with whom I had to deal, but he never wavered from the viewpoint – “Oli, they are briefly in charge of OUR club and then they will move on.”

I started using his cartoons regularly in the early 1970s and, from one subsequent market research report, we discovered that his cartoons were the most read item in the newspaper.

We became friends and in many respects he was the elder brother I never had. I was grateful for his insights and he opened up new ways of looking at things and life in general. He also shone a light into the dark tunnel that was my appreciation of art, which has opened up new vistas for me. I can honestly say I am a better, richer person for knowing Terry.

Occasionally he would phone me – we could always safely phone each other after midnight because we both stayed up late. He would have a creative block for something humorous to say about the game. I would think hard, phone him back and come up with what I thought was a funny scenario. He would chuckle, thank me and the next day put the cartoon on my desk. My vision was never there. Perhaps I could see a germ of it, but he had taken the concept and run with it to new heights.

Humour and anecdote were the reasons for his getting up, albeit very late, in the mornings. He smoked too much and, given his emphysema, for too long. He drank very occasionally, he could eat for England and was probably the most non-mercenary person I have ever met. He had no financial ambition beyond comfort and comfort was something he valued. He could also fall asleep at the drop of a hat.

Terry was raised in central Watford, his former home in Clifford Street now buried beneath the central development, and he lived for many years in West Watford with his partner Barbara. They travelled abroad extensively, although Terry would never fly, and it was his love and enthusiasm for France that sparked our own tours of various regions which in turn resulted in us living and loving it there.

Terry was also a member of the Bushey and Watford Art Society and could turn his hand to most styles. He was a fine artist, extremely talented but was self-effacing to the point of embarrassment if ever praised directly. Yet he would absorb the praise and then tell me word for word what the person had said, with great pride. He suspected but could never fully believe his impact and I would always contend, when he related these incidents, that they were further proof Terry should try and reach a wider audience if he only had the confidence to assert himself. But assertion was not in Terry’s lexicon.

So he remained essentially a local taste and I for one am grateful for that and so were thousands of readers down the years. On a personal level we had years of laughter and anecdotes, and his visits to the office were always welcome, brightening the day.

His interests and knowledge embraced all sports, even American football, and he instigated the local cycle speedway league as a teenager, riding for Water Lane Rockets. He was also part of the post-war “Thursday exodus” to Wembley to watch the Lions speedway team. He played centre half for Sun Sports, Croxley Boys and WEMCO in the Watford and District League but concluded he was no more than a “willing plodder” and preferred to watch Watford.

Sadly, as is the case with many funny people, he had the depressive side.

During his days working at Sun Printers, in Whippendell Road, he suffered a breakdown, remaining housebound for a year. It was triggered by the death of Elvis Presley, who was the same age and served two years in Germany in the town next to where Terry completed his two years of National Service.

“He was one of my generation, who really made it,” he explained.

We eventually broke the circle of depression, taking him to away games where he would regale us with the stories of his experiences at “the nut clinic”, as he described his group therapy sessions.

Yet he remained concerned as to the inevitability his life would end in death and references to it were constant.

In recent years we were both diagnosed as suffering from emphysema, mine milder than his.

Sadly, after the death of his mentor and elder brother last year, depression again took root and despite all our attempts to jolt, cajole or ease him out of it, he believed the grim reaper was waiting and eventually his anxiety took him there, perhaps ten to 15 years before his time.

Happily I saw him several times over the last 18 months although the downhill spiral continued unabated and ultimately the humour deserted him. I have so many memories because he enriched my life.

Ours was not a seamless relationship and we would roar our differences on occasions. Somehow we produced the Centenary History of Watford without coming to blows and laughed about it afterwards.

Between dozing off on the way home from far-flung football outlets, he would dip into our collective bag of mixed toffees, making sure he passed me the least popular, green (mint) ones. When I took a preference to dark chocolate, as opposed to his love for milk chocolate, he said I did it on purpose. He repeated that claim as I ate a bar in his presence when I last saw him, while he continued to raid my bag of pork scratchings. I smiled and waited. “Typical public schoolboy,” he muttered, essentially for old time’s sake.

He knew, I knew we would not see each other again.

I accepted that likelihood as I took my leave. I was philosophical for I knew he had decided some time back the race had been run.

Presented with the finality, now it is not so easy to accept. Life goes on but I know from my own perspective, the world is poorer for his passing.

We were in Memphis when he died. We were looking at Elvis’ grave. Somehow, we felt that was pertinent.

I know he would have.