TRIBUTES were paid last night to Gateshead Mayor Maureen Chaplin after she lost her battle with cancer.
Coun Chaplin died yesterday surrounded by her family following a long fight with mesothelioma. She is survived by her husband Bob, daughters Julie and Jill and three grandchildren.
Her last major function was the official opening of Gateshead Heritage @ St Mary’s only last month, where she welcomed the Earl of Wessex.
Leader of Gateshead Council, Coun Mick Henry, led the tributes to 65-year-old Coun Chaplin.
“This has come as a great shock,” he said. We have been aware that Maureen had been in poor health recently, but none of us were prepared for this news. Our thoughts are with her family.
“Maureen showed considerable bravery and spirit in her personal battle against mesothelioma.
“Despite her illness, she threw herself into a programme of civic duties which much younger people would find punishing, and she brought a great deal of happiness and cheer to many people by her presence. Maureen Chaplin represented Gateshead with great dignity and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”
Sharon Hodgson MP, of Gateshead East and Washington West, said “I was extremely saddened to hear the news of Maureen’s death and my sincere condolences go to her family at this time.
“Maureen was totally dedicated to her role and will be sorely missed by all who knew her.”
Coun Chaplin had recently retired from the Royal Mail after 24 years as a post woman. Prior to that she worked with people with learning disabilities at Prudhoe Hospital, and at the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal.
It was while working as a nursing assistant at the hospital between 1971 and 1979 that she believes she was exposed to asbestos, the trigger for most mesothelioma cases. Coun Chaplin, of Chopwell, Gateshead, discovered she had the disease two years ago after suffering chest pains.
Despite being told the condition was terminal, Coun Chaplin launched into fundraising campaign for the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, which aims to improve treatments for the disease.
Deputy Mayor Coun Joe Mitchinson has opened a Book of Condolence in the main reception at Gateshead Civic Centre. The Association of North East Councils confirmed there will be a tribute to the late councillor at a Covenant of Mayors meeting at Gateshead’s Baltic gallery today. Coun Chaplin became Mayor last May and in August launched the inaugural Relay for Life in aid of cancer research at Gateshead International Stadium.
During her year as mayor she nominated the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fund, the Chopwell and Rowlands Gill Live At Home Schemes and Chopwell Community Centre as her mayoral charities.
Chris Knighton, founder of the Mick Knighton Mesothelioma Research Fun said: “Coun Chaplin was brave in her fight against this disease.”