Much-loved Coronation Street star dies just three days after celebrating her 90th birthday
Published 15/10/2016 | 06:29
Former Coronation Street actress Jean Alexander, who starred as Hilda Ogden in the soap for over two decades, has died.
Alexander, who played the much-loved character between 1964 and 1987, passed away in hospital on Friday, three days after celebrating her 90th birthday.
Once voted the nation's favourite soap star for her turn as the pinny-wearing cleaning lady rarely seen without a set of tightly-wound hair curlers, her family remembered her as being glamorous and "great fun" off-screen.
In the years after leaving the cobbles, Alexander became a mainstay of BBC sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine as bric-a-brac shop owner Auntie Wainwright, appearing on the programme until 2010.
Her niece Sonia Hearld, 64, told the Press Association that Alexander, who announced her retirement in 2012, had recently spent time in hospital.
She said: "I saw her last week when we went to see her in hospital. She was feeling a little bit poorly but she was talking to me and my husband quite happily.
"There was nothing telling us anything was wrong - she was just generally weak and under the weather.
"We have not had the details."
Mrs Hearld, who is one of Alexander's few relatives, paid tribute to her aunt and said she had continued to enjoy a celebrity status into her retirement.
"People used to stop her just to say hello and how much they missed her," Mrs Hearld said.
"She was always very good to her fans - she said 'they put me where I am'."
Her fans tuned in in their millions to watch her daily battle to get her inept husband, Stan, out of the Rovers and into work.
Famous faces including Sir Michael Parkinson, writer Willis Hall, former Poet Laureate John Betjeman and the late Russell Harty, also formed themselves into the British League for Hilda Ogden.
In 2005 Alexander was voted as the greatest soap opera star of all time and there were calls for her turn as Hilda to be memorialised.
She said at the time: "I just couldn't see myself stood on a pedestal cast in bronze.
"Knowing my luck, the Southport seagulls would find me and do their worst, as they have done before - usually when I have just washed my hair."
Alexander brought a lot of her own personality to her role, Mrs Hearld said.
"Certainly with Hilda, the fact she was such a downtrodden person but just got on with it. She just touched a chord with people.
"She did bring a lot of herself to the role but she was a different person, a private person. They were amalgams of people she had met, people she had observed and people she knew. She was very observant about people.
"Privately, she was great fun and had a great sense of humour.
"She was very glamorous - I remember when I was about four or five seeing her get ready for an evening, wearing really pretty clothes and high heels. She occasionally let me traipse around the house in them.
"She was a good role model and she had a drive that carried her through."