AN ambulanceman hailed a hero has died just two weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

Tributes have been paid to fatherof- two Steven Verity, who died last week, aged 40.

Mr Verity was due to take his paramedic exams in January, but was forced to postpone them after falling ill in September last year.

He had been off work for two months when scans taken earlier this month revealed his illness was cancer.

Mr Verity's widow, Susan, said yesterday: "It was only two weeks ago when an ultrasound revealed he had cancer and that it was quite extensive.

"It was very sudden. He hadn't been well for a while, but it was still a shock."

Mr Verity came to public attention in March 2006, when he delivered a baby on the doorstep of a Darlington house, the mother being too far into labour to move to hospital.

Mrs Verity said yesterday her husband was a popular man and a reluctant hero.

She added: "He wasn't one for a fuss. After he was in the newspapers, the television news wanted to run his story, but he wouldn't have it.

"He was a wonderful man, and was known to a lot of people. He would do anything for anybody.

"We never argued - in fact, the only time we fought was over the crossword and sudoku."

Following his diagnosis, ambulance crews returned Mr Verity to his home in High Grange, in the Faverdale area of Darlington.

Mr Verity insisted on walking into the house, despite being rendered extremely weak by his illness.

Mrs Verity said: "It was very difficult for him, but he was stubborn right up to the end.

"He wouldn't have anybody fussing over him. He didn't want to lose his dignity, and he never did."

Mr Verity had worked with the North-East Ambulance service for nearly four years, having made a career change from his job at Glaxo- SmithKline, in Newton Aycliffe, where he met his future wife at a staff Christmas party.

Mrs Verity said they soon became "inseparable". They were married last year.

The former Branksome School pupil was a keen climber and caver, and had been a member of the Swaledale Outdoor Club for more than ten years.

Club member Paul Brooks said Mr Verity was well known to cavers across the region and news of his death had shocked the caving community.

"He was an absolutely great bloke," he said.

"He was a good caver, but very unassuming. You would always feel very comfortable in his company and he always made other people feel confident because he was really a nice guy.

"It is such a shame. It was a real shock to everybody."

Mr Verity leaves behind two children to his first wife, Jack, 16, and Ellie, 13.