Award-winning broadcaster Stephen Rhodes, 66, has lost his courageous battle with motor neurone disease.
The campaigning journalist who declared he was going to be ‘a noisy old geezer for MND’ died peacefully at home on Monday with his wife Greggy and his children at his bedside.
Greggy said: “He was so brave right to the end. It was his strength that kept me going.”
Poignantly, he’d taken everyone to lunch at the Banana Tree in Milton Keynes the day before. Daughter Beck Godfrey, 35, said: “It was as if he wanted one last family meal with us all together. He was very frail, but he was always such a strong, driven person.”
She recalled that when he went to an MND event last year, attended by Princess Anne, his energy was amazing: “He gave a brilliant speech, in spite of having difficulty breathing.”
And she’ll always be grateful that her dad - born Tommy Keenan in Dublin - was around for the birth of her second son Theo in July. She said: “They formed such a lovely bond and it was nice they had that time together.” Stephen – who ran Bullet Point Media and once wrote a column for our sister paper, the Luton News – ditched his broadcasting career in 2010 to stand as an independent candidate in Luton South.
He had four children – Beck, sons Nick, 37, Sam, 27 and Jack, 24, and two grandsons – Ethan, five and six-month-old Theo.
Tributes have been pouring in for the charismatic former BBC 3CR personality.
His friend and colleague Jonathan Vernon Smith said: “They always say you should choose your role models carefully and thankfully Stephen Rhodes was mine! He was quite simply a radio genius.
“He had the ability to make the audience laugh and cry in equal measure. He was kind, caring and hugely entertaining and I am just so lucky to have worked with him for so many years, and honoured to have been his friend.”
BBC 3CR editor Laura Moss said: “Stephen was a great presenter who cared deeply about his listeners. Always pushing the boundaries, he was determined to achieve justice for those who had been wronged no matter what it took. He also had a great sense of humour and we enjoyed many laughs, Stephen was a great one for poking fun at himself.
“MND is a cruel disease but he faced it head on and campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the charity fighting for better local services and treatment. A campaigner and consumer champion to the end, Stephen always put others before himself. He will be sorely missed by us all and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”
Chair of the Luton and South Beds branch of the MND Assocation, Ann Murphy, said: “Stephen was a very fine man who worked hard to raise the profile of MND. He spoke several times on the local radio and attended several high profile events, including meeting our patron Princess Anne.
“As our branch campaigns contact, he was highly instrumental in persuading Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to joint fund with MNDA a rare neurological conditions nurse specialist.
“A larger than life character who will be sadly missed.”
> The family has set up a JustGiving page in Stephen’s memory – visit https://www.justgiving.com/TommyKeenan Or text 70070 with TOMK48 and the amount to be donated eg TOMK48 £10.