A BRAVE dad who inspired his community while battling a crippling illness has died. 

The devastated family of 40-year-old Paul Coulston announced today that he had lost his fight against Motor Neurone Disease. 

In a statement posted on Facebook they said Mr Coulston had died suddenly last night. 

His wife Clare said today: "We would just like to thank everyone for their support, not only now but in the days to come. 

"Everyone has been there and supported us over the last few years and it has just made life so much better." 

A former deputy head teacher at St George's School in Barrow, Mr Coulston 40, of Birkrigg Park, Ulverston was diagnosed with the muscle wasting illness in April 2012, three years after his wife Clare had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. 

The college sweethearts, who met at St Martin's University in Lancaster and have two children Finlay and Evelyn, were given the news shortly after Mrs Coulston had been told she was cancer free following a scan.

The couple's story made national headlines after they both shared their experiences of being diagnosed with life threatening illnesses. 

Aiming to raise awareness, Mr Coulston's cousin, Philip Thompson, 31, from Newcastle set up a Facebook fund raising page to keep people updated with news about the couple. 

He said: "Sadly Paul passed away suddenly yesterday evening. His wife Clare and his brother Alan were with him. We are all still in complete shock. Paul touched so many people's lives and fought hard over the past few years to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and took part in a gruelling clinical trial to help find a cure for others.

"We knew he had five years max to live so of course we knew it would come one day but no matter how much you prepare yourself for it you are never ready for it."

Over the past few years the family have held various charity fund raising events to secure the future of the Coulstons' children. 

Mr and Mrs Coulston have been honoured with a Heart of Ulverston award as well as a Love Barrow Award for their courage. 

Mrs Coulston's sister, Elaine Hudson, said: "The family would like to thank every single one of you who donated money or prizes for Paul at the various fund raising events we held. 

"It really did make a huge difference to his quality of life. He was able to have the house adapted, buy an off road electric wheelchair so he could go out with the children and the whole family had an unforgettable holiday to Disney World. 

"Precious memories that will last forever were created for Fin and Evelyn and Paul's life was made so much more comfortable by your generosity. 

"We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts." 

More than 200 people have posted tributes for Paul on the Facebook page created for the couple.