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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 16:16 GMT
TV's Whiteley remembered by fans
Kathryn Apanowicz [L] and Carol Vorderman
Actress Kathryn Apanowicz and Carol Vorderman attended
More than 2,000 people have attended a memorial service for the Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley, who died earlier this year.

Whiteley, 61, passed away on 26 June just days after undergoing heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary. He had been suffering from pneumonia.

Countdown co-host Carol Vorderman led the tributes at the thanksgiving service at York Minster.

TV host Sir Alan Whicker and opera diva Lesley Garrett were also present.

Many of Whiteley's colleagues were in attendance, as were Countdown contributors Gyles Brandreth and Barry Cryer, and comedian Jo Brand.

Best company

An emotional Vorderman told the congregation: "We loved him because he wasn't smooth was he?

"He wore truly bad jackets, deafeningly loud ties and his jokes were so bad they were jokes only Richard could telll.

"He was the best company you could possibly wish for. When you were with him, every time you were with him, you laughed."

Alan Whicker

Music played a central theme at the memorial, which included a selection of Whiteley's favourite pieces.

There was a tribute from former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, while Opera North's Victoria Sharp, David Owen-Lewis and Keith Swallow sang Someone to Watch Over Me, One for my Baby and I Got Rhythm.

The Choirs of Leeds Parish Church and Giggleswick School, which Whiteley attended as a child and where he was a governor in later life, sang the hymns.

Speaking before the event, Jo Brand said: "It means a lot to be here. I was very fond of Richard as I worked with him a lot. I am sure he would have loved today."

Alan Whicker said: "I worked with him over many years when Yorkshire started. I was with him in 1966, he arrived soon after and we worked alongside each other quite often. He was always great fun to work with. He was the ideal TV man."

Lesley Garrett said: "He was a champion of all things Yorkshire. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Richard as an aspiring singer."

Public respect

Whiteley - who hosted Channel 4's Countdown for 23 years - was honoured with an OBE from the Queen in November last year.

Richard Whiteley
Richard Whiteley' received an OBE from the Queen last year

The service was organised by Richard's partner, actress Kathryn Apanowicz, and one of his oldest friends, Geoff Druett.

His funeral in July was kept private, but Ms Apanowicz invited the public to pay their respects at the memorial service.

Whiteley's niece, Georgina Stewart, read a family tribute at the service.

A tribute was also paid by former controller of BBC One Sir Paul Fox, who went on to work with Whiteley as managing director of Yorkshire Television in the 1970s.

"Richard had an old-fashioned view of the world," Sir Paul said.

"He believed in traditional virtues he was a man of the people, he was never high-handed about himself, he was often too modest about his achievements."

Former sports presenter Des Lynam became the new host of Countdown in October.

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