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BBC Radio presenter Gordon Sparks dies aged 61: Tributes pour in for late star following cancer battle

  • Sparks was best known for presenting the BBC Radio Devon Breakfast Show and had commentated on Plymouth Argyle games for 32 years
  • The presenter revealed in May that his cancer had returned in the form of two tumours in his throat – 17 years after he battled testicular cancer 
  • Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies and footballer Peter Shilton were among those paying tribute to the presenter 

BBC Radio Devon presenter Gordon Sparks has died at the age of 61 following a battle with cancer.

The radio host was being treated at St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth until his death, with stars and heartbroken colleagues sharing tributes after his passing. 

Announcing the news, Stephanie Marshall, head of BBC South and South West, said: ‘It is a very sad day for BBC Radio Devon. Our hearts go out to Gordon’s friends, family and faithful listeners.

‘Gordon was a broadcasting legend – honest and brave through the toughest times. He will be missed dearly.’

BBC Radio presenter Gordon Sparks dies aged 61: Tributes pour in for late star following cancer battle (pictured in 2006)

BBC Radio presenter Gordon Sparks dies aged 61: Tributes pour in for late star following cancer battle (pictured in 2006)

Gordon was best known for presenting the BBC Radio Devon Breakfast Show and had commentated on Plymouth Argyle games for 32 years

Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies paid tribute to the presenter, tweeting: ‘Sad to hear we’ve lost @SparksyOnRadio Gordon Sparks the sporting voice of Plymouth, fellow janner & friend.

‘He’ll be very missed especially by all those at@HeraldPAFC RIP Sparkzy x.’

Footballer Peter Shilton also shared his condolences, writing: ‘I am so sad to hear that Gordon Sparks has passed away. Steph and myself saw him not so long ago at a dinner in Plymouth. 

‘He was always so supportive when l was at the club and always such a lovely man. RIP Gordon.’ 

Final photograph: On October 13, Sparky shared a sweet photo of his granddaughter visiting him in hospital before he was transferred to a hospice

Final photograph: On October 13, Sparky shared a sweet photo of his granddaughter visiting him in hospital before he was transferred to a hospice 

Candid: The presenter had kept his followers up to date with his progress, tweeting about his cancer treatment just days before his death

Candid: The presenter had kept his followers up to date with his progress, tweeting about his cancer treatment just days before his death 

Fellow BBC Radio Devon presenter Angela Kalwaites tweeted: ‘We will all miss our friend and colleague so much – he was definitely one-of-a-kind with a massive heart and sense of humour.’

Earlier this month, Sparkes – commonly known as Sparky – told his followers: ‘Had severe breathing difficulties on Thursday. Paramedics called. 

‘Taken to hospital, spent 17 hours in the infamous ambulance queue. Currently on a ward undergoing various tests. Staff magnificent.’

Days later, he added: ‘Tumour slightly bigger. Lungs not responding to antibiotics. New tumour on liver. Soon to be transferred to St Luke’s Hospice for what I’m told will be a period of weeks or short number of months.’

On October 13, Sparkie shared a sweet photo of his granddaughter visiting him in hospital.

Tributes: Fans and friends shared their condolences on Twitter following the heartbreaking news

Tributes: Fans and friends shared their condolences on Twitter following the heartbreaking news

His final post, on October 17, read: ‘Huge thanks to the nurses on Brent ward at @UHP_NHS for looking after me over the last week.

‘Have moved to @StLukesPlymouth. After introduction, slept most of the afternoon. Don’t understand how tired I am. Inundated with messages. Sorry I can’t reply.’

Gordon revealed in May that he had developed tumours in his throat 17 years after beating testicular cancer. 

He said in a statement: ‘After initially thinking I had laryngitis, the longer things went on, so the concerns grew and the various tests were taken. This was heightened to a scan when it was discovered I had two growths, one of which had damaged my vocal chords. Not the best for radio!  

‘The latest scan has shown that there has been no spread to any other part of my body. The medical gurus are going to try and kill the cancer completely by an intense period so radiotherapy every day for a month is on the cards.

‘I want to let you all know as well that the bosses (and everyone) at BBC Radio Devon have been nothing short of brilliant. I have now been off for 11 weeks. They obviously enjoy the peace!’

Heartbreaking: Gordon revealed in May that he had developed tumours in his throat 17 years after beating testicular cancer (pictured in 2018)

Heartbreaking: Gordon revealed in May that he had developed tumours in his throat 17 years after beating testicular cancer (pictured in 2018) 

A spokesperson for BBC Radio Devon said at the time: ‘BBC Radio Devon is sad to announce that our much-loved breakfast show presenter Gordon Sparkes has cancer. 

‘Gordon has been away from the microphone at BBC Radio Devon while he’s been having medical tests. He will now undergo intensive treatment. 

‘Naturally we are all upset for Gordon but everyone at the station is sending him their love and support. As Gordon says: onwards and upwards.’

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