EastEnders stars bid a final farewell to Wendy Richards
More than 100 EastEnders stars past and present were reunited yesterday in a tearful farewell to “icon for ordinary folk” Wendy Richard.
Barbara Windsor, Todd Carty and Paul O'Grady joined legions of well-wishers from the world of showbusiness at her funeral.
Mourners — who were given an order of service which included Richard's favourite chilli con carne recipe — paid tribute to the star, best known for playing cardigan-wearing matriarch Pauline Fowler.
Speaking afterwards, Ian Lavender, the former Dad's Army star who also featured alongside her in the soap, said she was an “ordinary icon — a great icon for ordinary folk”.
He added: “It was a beautiful and funny service. I just remember all the good things and the black humour — she had a very acerbic sense of humour.
“She was a great woman and I am honoured to have spoken today.”
Actors Carty, Lavender and Trevor Bannister all gave readings at St Marylebone Parish Church, central London, before In The Mood by Glenn Miller and the 1960s hit Spirit In The Sky were heard blaring out loudspeakers.
During his reading Carty remembered his last message from Richard. Referring to an accident he had on Dancing On Ice, she apparently told him he was not being paid enough.
Bannister, who starred alongside Richard in Are You Being Served, also brought many laughs from the congregation.
Carty, who was one of the pall-bearers for Richard's wicker coffin, was close to tears as he arrived for the service shortly after Windsor walked in flanked by co-stars Steve McFadden (Phil Mitchell) and Patsy Palmer (Bianca Jackson).
Letitia Dean (Sharon Watts), who arrived at the church with Ricky Groves (Gary Hobbs) and June Brown (Dot Branning), told reporters: “Wendy is going to love this.”
Many left flowers outside, one bunch featuring a card from Queen guitarist Brian May and his former EastEnders star wife Anita Dobson. Their message read: “Rest in peace, dear Wendy.”
Frank Thornton, who played Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served?, added: “It was a lovely service. It was a truly brilliant way to say goodbye to her.”
Fans of the actress, who played Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served?, lined the streets outside the church.
Richard died last month at the Harley Street Clinic in London after a lengthy battle with cancer, with her husband John Burns by her side.
The 65-year-old, who featured in the long-running soap for 21 years, had fought to overcome cancer twice previously, first in the mid-1990s and then in 2002.
After lengthy treatment her cancer went into remission but last year an aggressive form of the disease returned.
It spread to her kidneys and bones and in October she revealed the cancer was terminal.
While battling the illness she married her long-term partner Mr Burns, her fourth husband, at a star-studded ceremony in London's Mayfair.
As more than a 1,000 mourners crammed into the service the Albert Square set was left almost empty.
An EastEnders spokeswoman said a “minimal amount of filming” went ahead.
Richard was awarded the MBE for services to television in 2000 and in 2007 she was awarded a British Soap Award for Lifetime Achievement for her role in EastEnders.