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‘Dedicated’ former regional daily journalist dies from cancer aged 34

Katie OkonkwoA “dedicated” former reporter at a regional daily has died from breast cancer aged 34.

Tributes have been paid to Katie Okonkwo, formerly Katie Thomas, who was previously on the editorial staff at the Teesside Gazette.

Katie, pictured, was initially treated for an aggressive form of the disease in February 2019 after finding a lump.

The cancer returned during the coronavirus lockdown last year and she launched a fundraising bid to travel to the USA and be treated with a new drug to beat the illness.

Despite the campaign’s success, the mother-of-one died last Sunday before she was able to travel.

Ian McNeal, editor of the Gazette’s sister titles Teesside Live and Hartlepool Live, posted on Twitter: “Absolutely awful news. I had the pleasure of working with Katie in our newsroom.

“She was lovely person and dedicated colleague.

“Our thoughts and best wishes from everyone at Teesside Live and the Gazette go to her family and loved ones.”

Former Gazette reporter Philip Tallentire added: “Absolutely lovely lady. Utterly tragic.”

Middlesbrough-born Katie left Teesside eight years ago and moved to Manchester where her doctor husband Oke had a job.

She worked as an English teacher there for seven years before the couple moved to Cheltenham at the start of 2020 with their daughter Ariela, who is now three.

In a statement, her family told the Gazette: “It is with deep sadness that we announce that Katie passed away last Sunday. Katie was at home, surrounded by family.

“The funeral will be held on Friday afternoon in her hometown.

“We know how much this page meant to Katie and wanted to thank you for all of your love and support.”

Katie’s funeral will be held a St Mary the Virgin Church in Nunthorpe, Middlesbrough, at 1.30pm.