Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Actress Wendy Richard dies at 65

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Wendy Richard on the Stephen Nolan show in Belfast in December 2008

Former EastEnders actress Wendy Richard has died at the age of 65, her agent has confirmed.

The star, who played Pauline Fowler in the BBC One soap opera for 21 years, had been suffering from cancer.

Her agent Kevin Francis said: "She was incredibly brave and retained her sense of humour right to the end."

Last October, Richard revealed she had an aggressive, terminal form of cancer. Soon after that she married her long-term partner John Burns.

Wendy Richard
Wendy Richard was in EastEnders for 21 years

Francis said the star passed away in the Harley Street Clinic in London with her husband by her side.

'True professional'

In an interview with the Sunday Express last year, Richard revealed she had already planned her funeral and written her will.

She discovered the disease had returned after her usual annual check-up, which revealed cancerous cells in her left armpit.

She told the paper: "Now I have a cancerous growth on my right kidney and the cancer has spread to my bones.

"It's more aggressive this time, unfortunately, and has spread to the top of my spine and left ribs."

Bill Treacher, who played Richard's on-screen husband Arthur Fowler in EastEnders, said the actress was a "true professional".

"We worked together for over 11 years and we never once had an argument," he said.

June Brown, who also co-starred in EastEnders as Dot Branning, said: "I loved working with her. We were good partners, we really enjoyed our scenes and that's why I missed her so much when she left."

"She was a very kind woman, particularly if anybody was ill. She would rush round finding doctors, and she was always giving you unexpected presents," she added.

Veteran actress Mollie Sugden who appeared in Are You Being Served? with Richard described her as "a daughter I never had and I shall never stop missing her".

'Funny and witty'

THE CAREER OF WENDY RICHARD
Are You Being Served?
1965 Aged 22, joins the cast of soap The Newcomers
1970-73 Stars in four episodes of Dad's Army as Private Walker's girlfriend, Shirley
1972 Plays Miss Willing in Carry On Matron
1972-85 Stars as Miss Brahms in the series Are You Being Served? (pictured)
1985-2006 Appears in more than 1,400 episodes of EastEnders as Pauline Fowler
2008 Films her last TV role as Mrs Crump in Marple: A Pocket Full Of Rye

Presenter Dale Winton had known Richard for years.

"I'm very saddened to hear the news, she was a real fighter and actually a very kind and funny lady in her own right," he said.

"My thoughts are with her family, she will be missed."

In 2000, Richard was awarded the MBE for services to television and in 2007 she was given a British Soap Award for Lifetime Achievement for her role in EastEnders.

As well as her 21 years on Albert Square, Richard starred in sitcoms Are You Being Served?, Dad's Army and Grace and Favour.

She joined EastEnders when the programme began in 1985 and remained in it until 2006, when her character died.

The reason she gave for her departure was because she objected to a storyline that saw her character remarry.

"I left because I wasn't happy," she revealed in 2008. "Also, I couldn't believe in what they wanted me to do and unless I can find some truth in what I am doing, I cannot play it.

"Pauline remarrying was wrong. Some women never remarry. My mother never remarried after Daddy died. I always had it in my heart that Arthur was Pauline's husband and that was that."

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