Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Funeral held for sitcom actress

Kathy Staff's funeral
The funeral service was held at St Mark's Church in Dukinfield

A service of thanksgiving has been held in memory of actress Kathy Staff, who played Nora Batty in long-running BBC One sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine.

The 80-year-old, who was from Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, died last week following an illness.

Dozens of mourners attended the public service at St Mark's Church in the town on Tuesday.

The Reverend Alison Cox said both the church and Mrs Staff's family had been overwhelmed by messages of support.

Ms Cox told mourners that Mrs Staff was born around the corner from the church, arranged outings for the congregation, visited the sick and elderly, and embodied old-fashioned and traditional values - hard work, community, family and faith.

Actor Peter Sallis who played Norman Clegg says he's "terribly upset"

"She was very cheerful, very easy to get to know, very generous with her time and very supportive of community activities here in Dukinfield."

Mrs Staff was an active member of her local church, and Ms Cox added: "I can't really start to imagine what life is going to be like without her."

The actress appeared as battleaxe Nora Batty in 243 episodes of the Yorkshire-based comedy, beginning in the first episode in January 1973.

She also played cleaner Doris Luke in long-running ITV soap Crossroads and appeared in Emmerdale, Coronation Street, and with David Jason and Ronnie Barker in Open All Hours.

'Huge affection'

The actress's daughters, Katherine and Susan, and her husband, John, sat among mourners who smiled and laughed as a eulogy from actor Roy Barraclough was read out recalling their early years.

The former Coronation Street star told how their careers criss-crossed, and that their final appearance together was on the Last of the Summer Wine, where he played a flower-arranging suitor for Nora.

Kathy Staff as Nora Batty in 1983
Nora Batty was Kathy Staff's most enduring TV role

"As was seen then, and as I've seen down the years, the general public had huge affection for Kathy and the roles she played," he told the congregation.

"No one could have come close to her portrayal of Nora Batty."

Her death means that Peter Sallis, who played Norman Clegg, is the only one of Last of The Summer Wine's leading cast members left alive.

Brian Wilde, who played pompous ex-army corporal Foggy Dewhirst, died in March, aged 80.

Bill Owen, who starred as welly-wearing rogue Compo for 28 years, passed away in 1999, while Dame Thora Hird, who played village gossip Edie Pegden, died in 2003.

A memorial fund has also been set up in Mrs Staff's memory at St Mark's.

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