Touching tributes as ‘hugely respected’ Shields Gazette reporter dies after long illness

Terry Kelly
Terry Kelly

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to a Shields Gazette stalwart who has died following a long battle with illness.

Terry Kelly died in his sleep at his home in Jarrow and was found by his beloved wife Val yesterday.

In Jarrow, the Gazette IS Terry Kelly.

Huw Lewis, former colleague

The 57-year–old, who had been a reporter at the Gazette since the early 1980s, spent the past 14 months battling a virus which had attacked his lungs and seen him endure months in various hospitals.

He is also survived by his daughter Kate. 26.

A family spokesman said: “Terry was a much-loved husband, father and brother. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”

Joy Yates, Shields Gazette editorial director, said: “Terry was one of the smartest, wittiest, kindest colleagues you could ever wish to meet.

“It has been a huge honour and privilege to work with him.

“He was hugely respected by his colleagues and all the Gazette readers he worked with in our South Tyneside community. Our thoughts are with his wife Val and family.”

Jarrow-born and bred, Terry attended St Bede’s RC Secondary school, before completing his A-levels at South Tyneside College.

He then studied an English literature degree at Sunderland Polytechnic before later completing an MA in the subject at Newcastle University. He then landed his first role in journalism at the Blyth Post.

Ray Spencer, executive director of the Customs House in South Shields, had known Terry, who was passionate about poetry, since their student days.

He said: “We had many a long discussion on the No. 310 bus to Sunderland as we attended the Polytechnic. They were mainly about his love for Bob Dylan and poetry. Little did I know he’d go on to become a published poet.

“Terry served the Gazette as a real stalwart of good local news and was trusted by his readers. He was passionate about all things literary and South Tyneside.

“Terry had a terrible illness and bore it with such a stoic attitude. He will be a real loss.”

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said Terry was also a much-respected contributor to the Larkin Society - which promotes the life and works of the poet Philip Larkin.

Mr Hepburn said: “Terry was a very pleasant local lad who loved the area.

“He was extremely dedicated to his job and loved the area so much he refused to move away to further his career.

“Terry worked in a neighbouring office to me for many years and we always had good banter and a laugh.

“He will be a sadly missed character in the local community. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time.”

As well as covering the Jarrow and Hebburn areas for the Gazette, Terry also focused on business and industry.

Geoff Ford, chairman of South Tyneside-based Ford Engineering Group, added: “Terry was a one-off. He was very thoughtful, supportive and reasonable in all of his doings.

“I always found him very helpful, and he was always well-balanced and that was to his credit.

“Terry will be sadly missed and he is a loss to the newspaper industry.”

Coun John McCabe, Labour ward member for Hebburn South, said: “I’ve known Terry all my life. He grew up round the corner from me.

“He was a member of the Literature and Philosophical Society in Newcastle, and I belonged to the Mining Society next door. At one point we were going to team our two institutes up for a project.”

Huw Lewis, a former colleague and now corporate manager for customer services and communications at Nexus, said: “Nothing would prise Terry away from his beloved Jarrow, and that’s what was so great about the man.

“He was a pleasure to deal with - one of the ‘old-school’ reporters who knew his patch backwards and was always accurate, fair and measured in his dealings. He was also great to bump into on a night out.

“I can’t put it better than a fellow I heard in a focus group once say ‘In Jarrow, the Gazette IS Terry Kelly’.”