Jean Alexander, who played Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden has died, aged 90. Her niece, 64-year-old Sonia Hearld, said the veteran actor had fallen ill a few days before her 90th birthday celebrations last weekend.
Describing her shock at her aunt's passing Hearld told The Guardian: "At the moment, it is a shock to the family and we are really just getting round to coming to terms with it. We were hoping to be celebrating her birthday this week but that hadn't happened."
"She was in Coronation Street and Last of the Summer Wine. She had a very well-known face, she was once dubbed the all-time favourite soap star, I believe. She was part of people's lives. She was very well liked in her time.
"She was a great person and she will be missed," Hearld added.
The much-loved soap star played the long suffering wife of Stan Ogden (Bernard Youens) for 23 years on the long-running show, between 1964 to 1987. When she announced she was quitting the soap, fans started a 'Save Hilda!' campaign.
Despite many invitations to revisit the iconic character, she never returned to the street. Explaining her decision in 2014, she said: "It is more than 25 years since she [Hilda] left the Street and I have been asked a number of times to do an episode but she wouldn't be the 'old scrubber' she was, now. Hilda had a bit of sense in her head; she would have adapted, smartened herself up and learned to speak better. People would want her to be the old Hilda. I couldn't do that."
She also admitted she stopped watching the show due to the focus on sex. "The only stories they seem to have in mind is who is jumping into whose bed next. I lost interest," she told the Daily Mirror. "Things have to move on, I know, but in the days of Hilda Ogden, Annie Walker and co, the Street was gentle, funny and human. The humour has all but gone out of it."
Fans and friends of the TV star have been paying tribute to her on social media, with Piers Morgan describing her as "one of the greatest soap stars in British TV history".