WHENEVER anyone asked Angelo Clarke how he was, he had two words: “Never better.”

To those who knew and loved Angelo - and those who only met him briefly - it was his upbeat personality, his humour and his positivity that shined brightly.

And since his death on Boxing Day, aged 52, Angelo’s family and friends have been embracing this with the hashtag #BeMoreAngelo.

Angelo passed away 12 years after he was diagnosed with myeloma, a cancer that develops from cells in the bone marrow.

Over the years he underwent two stem cell transplants, a double hip replacement and renal failure, and endured gruelling ongoing treatments, but he remained positive and devoted to his passion for theatre, both as an actor and director. A member of the Bradford Catholic Players for 20 years, he was involved in many theatre companies across the district.

Angelo and his wife Helen met at a drama group as teenagers and last year the couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. To Helen, #BeMoreAngelo means being “kind, generous, brave - and not sweating the small stuff.”

On Tuesday, January 29 Angelo’s funeral will take place at Bradford Cathedral, and a procession of scooters will make its way there from Pudsey, where he lived, in tribute to his lifelong love of the vehicles.

“He had four or five Vespas and Lambrettas over the years, and from the age of about 15 he was a member of the Yorkshire Road Runners. His dream was to get back on his scooter one day,” says Helen. “The scooters will be setting off from Galloway Lane, going out of Pudsey, at 10.15am to accompany the hearse to the Cathedral, where the funeral starts at 11am. Other scooter clubs are taking part too; people have been in touch to say they’re taking the day off work. Angelo left a lasting impression on people.”

Adds Helen: “I’ve got about 150 sympathy cards which each contain a story about how Angelo touched so many lives, of people of all ages.

“I want everyone to wear bright colours for the funeral, and we’ll be playing music that he loved. It will be very much a celebration of his life.”

In 2007, the year after his diagnosis, Angelo set up a fundraising campaign for Myeloma UK. He called it Angelo’s Angels, in tribute to those who loved and supported him, and over the years he raised £175,000 for the charity. He and Helen organised eight annual gala balls, and family and friends took on a range of challenges.

“People climbed the Three Peaks, swam Lake Windermere, cycled across the country, kids organised jumble sales - everyone threw themselves into it, for Angelo,” says Helen. “No matter what he was going through, he was determined to keep the fundraising going. It said everything about him. He had time for everyone, and always had a smile and a joke. He was the bravest man I knew.”

Now Helen is building on Angelo’s legacy to take the fundraising even further. A justgiving page she set up in his memory has raised £1,100 so far. “I want the fundraising to continue - it’s his legacy,” says Helen. “I’m planning a Concert for Clarkey later this year.”

It was at St Bede’s School in Heaton that Angelo got into performing arts. “He joined Bradford Youth Players, which is where we met,” says Helen. “He was 16 and I was 18. He made me laugh - and he went on to make me laugh every day.”

Angelo was 39, and starring in The Pirates of Penzance, a Catholic Players show, at the Alhambra when he started to feel ill. “He’d had a gall stone stuck in his pancreatic duct for about two years, and had Type 1 diabetes from the pancreatitis. When he had his gall bladder out they picked up on the myeloma,” says Helen.

Angelo had chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant shortly after the myeloma diagnosis, then a second transplant when his sister, Anna, was found to be a stem cell match. Just a week after undergoing the painful process of donating bone marrow, Anna ran the London Marathon, raising £8,000 for Myeloma UK.

“Every night, after coming out of hospital she went running, despite being anaemic from the transplant,” a proud Angelo told the T&A in 2007.

Reflecting on spending his 40th birthday during a lengthy stay in hospital, he said: “Helen brought my Elvis costume in - I was sitting in bed in full Elvis catsuit and shades!”

Over the years Angelo directed and acted in many productions with societies in Bradford, Guiseley, Yeadon, Bingley and Keighley, and he taught drama at Shipley’s Debut Theatre School.

In 2008 he and Anna appeared on stage together at Bingley Little Theatre, in his first show since falling ill. And last September he and Helen were together in Sister Act at Guiseley Theatre.

“He once directed a show, The Slipper and the Rose, at Guiseley just after having a hip replacement,” says Helen. “I got there to find his empty wheelchair, I didn’t know where he was. Then he was spotted up in the lighting box, he’d managed to climb up there to fix something! He didn’t think twice about it.

“When he and some friends put on a production of Reservoir Dogs for his Tripwire Theatre Company, which they took to the Edinburgh Festival in 2011, he would head off to rehearsals in the evenings, folding up his Zimmer frame, putting it in the boot and driving to Bingley. It was sheer dogged determination.

“He loved life and he was determined to make the best of it, even when he was faced with limitations. Whenever people asked how he was, he always had the same reply: ‘Never better’.”

When a friend told Helen she’d decided her New Year resolution was to ‘Be More Angelo’, the idea soon gained momentum.

“I woke up to some lovely messages, with other friends saying that this is also going to be their mantra for 2019,” says Helen. “What a wonderful tribute it would be for us all to ‘Be More Angelo’.”

* Myeloma is a blood cancer arising from plasma cells. According to Myeloma UK, there are around 17,500 people living with the condition in Britain. Myeloma affects multiple parts of the body, including bones of the spine, legs, shoulders and hips.

Myeloma UK helps people with myeloma and their families, holding support groups and information events, and provides educational resources for healthcare professionals involved in caring for myeloma patients. The charity funds the development of new approaches to myeloma treatment and, through its Health Services Research Programme and patient advocacy, helps patients access to high quality care and treatments.

* Visit myeloma.org.uk

* To make a donation to Helen’s justgiving campaign go to justgiving.com/Helen-Clarke