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Last Updated: Monday, 27 June, 2005, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Vorderman honours 'Mr Countdown'
Richard Whiteley and Carol Voderman
Whiteley and Carol Vorderman presented Countdown for 23 years
Carol Vorderman has paid tribute to Countdown co-star Richard Whiteley, who died on Sunday at the age of 61.

"I adored him and I always will," she said of the man she partnered on screen for 23 years. "He was the best company you could ever have.

"He was Countdown and Countdown was him. I'm privileged to have known him [and] to have been so close to him."

Channel 4 have postponed Monday's episode of Countdown, which featured Whiteley, "as a mark of respect".

The TV presenter died in Leeds General Infirmary after falling ill with pneumonia last month. He recently underwent heart surgery but had been said to be recovering slowly.

Richard Whiteley with co-presenter Carol Vorderman

Kevin Lygo, Channel 4's director of television, said they still had a few episodes "presented by Richard that have not yet aired" and they hoped to broadcast them with a tribute "as soon as we feel it appropriate".

Whiteley's partner, actress Kathryn Apanowicz - who featured in EastEnders during the 1980s and Emmerdale Farm in the 1990s - was at his hospital bedside when he died.

She thanked the thousands of people who sent in messages of support saying how much he would be missed.

Before presenting Countdown, Whiteley had been a familiar face on Yorkshire Television since the late 1960s.

As anchorman on the channel's Calendar programme, he was subjected to an on-screen attack by a ferret and was broadcast in negative - with white hair and a black face.

He loved what he did, he loved being on Countdown - he just loved life
TV personality Gyles Brandreth

But he was also an incisive political reporter who had interviewed every prime minister since Harold Macmillan.

Broadcaster Esther Rantzen, who was one of several guest presenters on Countdown, described him as "one of those people who made you smile".

She said: "They won't be able to replace him. He will be hugely missed."

BBC Radio 2 DJ Terry Wogan, a friend of Whiteley, said he was too upset to speak fully.

"I'm shocked. It's terrible news," he said.

Whiteley and partner, the actress Kathryn Apanowicz
Kathryn Apanowicz: "I will miss him desperately"

And Austin Mitchell MP, who knew Whiteley for 30 years, paid tribute to him as a man who "never put on airs and graces".

"If he fluffed and fumbled that was natural. If he told awful jokes people liked that. He did the programme so well on a friendly, human basis," he said.

Wogan's fellow DJ Ken Bruce added: "Such a nice man - that was the defining quality of him, a genuinely nice man. And he had no real ego."

The cricket umpire and fellow Yorkshireman Dickie Bird, who was a close friend of Whiteley's, said he was "stunned and shocked".

Countdown was the first show to air on Channel 4, and its founding chief executive Sir Jeremy Isaacs described Whiteley as "one of the great, modest, amusing, jolly, heart-warming broadcasters of our time".

It is easy to underestimate his strength on screen - he never outstayed his welcome
Esther Rantzen

"It's an enormous achievement to have lasted in the public favour for so long. And only people who are themselves, and are acceptable as themselves can pull that off," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Pianist and TV personality Richard Stilgoe worked with Whiteley as a guest on Countdown on more than 200 occasions.

"The studio audience is there for quite a long time because we record several Countdowns one after the other. After each one Richard has to go away and change into another terrible jacket and then come back in.

"Each time it was like a favourite uncle coming back into the studio."

HAVE YOUR SAY
He wore his celebrity gently and well
A Campbell, Scotland

Last November Whiteley was honoured with an OBE from the Queen, who is said to be a Countdown fan, as was the late Queen Mother.


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