TRIBUTES have been paid to a respected North-East journalist who has died following a long battle with illness.

Terry Kelly died in his sleep at his home in Jarrow, South Tyneside.

The 57-year–old, who had been a reporter at the Shields Gazette since the early 1980s, spent the past 14 months battling a virus which had attacked his lungs.

He is survived by his wife Val and 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.”

Mr Kelly was also a much-respected contributor to the Larkin Society - which promotes the life and works of the poet Philip Larkin.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said: “Terry was extremely dedicated to his job and loved the area so much he refused to move away to further his career.

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

Huw Lewis, a former colleague and now corporate manager for customer services and communications at Nexus, added: “I can’t put it better than a fellow I heard in a focus group once say, ‘In Jarrow, the Gazette IS Terry Kelly’.”