VETERAN character actor Tony Melody – who became a household name in some of Britain's best loved and longest running comedies and soaps – has died.
The distinguished star of stage and screen passed away in a Bispham nursing home yesterday after a short battle against cancer.
Mr Melody, who enjoyed cult status with children after his tongue-in-cheek McDonald's TV advertising campaign in 2002, was 85.
His widow Maggie, who has fought cancer herself, was at her husband's bedside when he died.
She said today: "Tony had a peaceful ending. He died after a short illness. He had been in hospital for three weeks, and then a nursing home for five weeks.
"I'm so glad I was with him at the end. I was able to hold his hand and kiss him goodbye.
"He was always there for me. And what was lovely was that he kept his sense of humour to the very end."
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Mr Melody met Maggie, a former dancer, in pantomime in Skegness when she was Cinderella and he was Buttons.
The couple made their home in Bispham.
He once told The Gazette: "Other actors can have London. I don't like it there, can't stand the trains, the noise, the hassle. Home is here."
Not one for the showbiz clique, the unassuming star owned up to being "shy" offscreen and gave few interviews but had time to spare for fans.
He admitted: "Comedy got me through difficult moments, a quip to break the ice."
He starred in TV series, plays, films and stage shows, and continued to work almost until his final illness.
But it was as a singer that he initially made his mark, starting out at the pub his beloved mother Myra ran with his dad, where, as a little lad, he accompanied the pianist.
He went on to sing for the Northern Dance Orchestra.
But he became a household name with character and comedy cameos in Steptoe and Son (teaching a young Harold Steptoe how to dance), Coronation Street, Heartbeat (helping Greengrass steal a train), Casualty, Emmerdale, City Central, Where the Heart Is and Last of the Summer Wine.
One of his biggest breaks came when he appeared in the film Yanks alongside Richard Gere.
A devout Catholic, who worshipped at Sacred Heart, Blackpool, Mr Melody once told The Gazette: "Don't be fooled by this long face – for I am a joyful man.
"My faith keeps me joyful, and that's thanks to my mother, Myra.
"So long as I can bring a little happiness to others, whether that's through singing or comedy, or drama, and have my lovely wife, Maggie, at my side, I'll be happy."
Details of the funeral service, to be held next Thursday, have yet to be announced.