Bill Tarmey, Coronation Street star, dies

media captionA look at the life and career of Bill Tarmey, best known as Coronation Street's Jack Duckworth

Actor Bill Tarmey, who played Jack Duckworth in ITV soap opera Coronation Street, has died.

Tarmey, 71, left the soap in 2010 after more than 30 years in the show.

His family confirmed that he died in Tenerife, Spain, on Friday, and asked for "privacy as they grieve for a wonderful husband, father and brother".

Liz Dawn, who played his on-screen wife Vera Duckworth, said: "You couldn't wish to meet a more lovely man and a true gentleman."

A statement from Coronation Street said the cast, crew and production team were "devastated" to learn of his death.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill's wife and soulmate Ali and their family at this very sad time," it said.

Tarmey was married to his childhood sweetheart Alison for 50 years and they had two children.

media captionAlan Halsall: "He would literally do anything for anybody"

As well as suffering ill health himself, Tarmey eventually left Coronation Street to help care for his son Carl, who was battling a brain tumour.

He told ITV Granada earlier this year: "If this hadn't happened, they would've had to drag me out of there screaming. It was a wonderful bloody job, especially for an old coffin-dodger."

A life-long heavy smoker, Tarmey suffered a severe heart attack at just 35 while singing on stage and had heart surgery to bypass clogged arteries at 45, having the operation redone 15 years later.

He also suffered from sleep apnoea, a condition that resulted in him jolting awake several times a night due to breathing problems.

Liz Dawn, who played his nagging on-screen wife until 2008, said: "I am totally bereft. He will always be remembered by everyone he came into contact with because he was such a kind and generous man."

For Tarmey's final appearance in the soap two years ago, Jack and Vera were reunited one last time when they appeared to dance together as a dying Jack drifted in and out of consciousness.

image captionJack and Vera, played by Liz Dawn, were two of the Street's best loved characters

Other co-stars have also been paying tribute. Kevin Kennedy, who played Curly Watts, said he was "absolutely devastated" and that Tarmey's death was "like losing a member of the family".

Nigel Pivaro, who starred as Jack and Vera's wayward son Terry, described Tarmey as "a very wise and dignified man who taught me a great deal".

William Roache, who has played Ken Barlow since the soap stated in 1960, praised Tarmey's "amazing comic timing" and said he was "a genuinely warm and wonderful human being".

Vicky Entwistle, who appeared as Janice Battersby in the soap, said Tarmey would be missed by everyone who worked with him.

"He was just such a lovely man to have around," she said. "So warm and always full of fun. The character of Jack was such a jack the lad, there was that wonderful mischievous side to him. He was so well loved by everyone - just a beautiful kind man.

image captionBill Tarmey appeared in Coronation Street from 1979 to 2010

"We all used to look up to him and learn from him and watch him because he made everything look so easy."

In 2010, Tarmey published his autobiography, Jack Duckworth And Me, which charted his life from growing up in the slums of Manchester through to working as a singer in local nightclubs before landing a role on the Street in 1979.

He said: "I've loved sharing my life with Jack. I'm not sure whether he has liked sharing his with me, though!"

Former co-star Jean Alexander, who played long-time Coronation Street resident Hilda Ogden, told the BBC Tarmey and Dawn were "a really good team".

"He certainly took to that part like a duck to water," she said as she recalled acting with him during his first scene in the soap's pub The Rovers Return.

"I was standing next to him on the set and we were just about to start this scene. He said 'Jean I've only ever done walk-ons. I'm terribly nervous, I'll forget what I've got to say.'

"I said 'No you won't Bill, just keep your mind still, open your mouth and the words will come out'. He soon got over that.

"And the part was so suitable for him personally. He was the right sort of character and the right sort of person to play it. I'm very sorry he's gone."

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