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Eric Morecambe's wife Joan has died on her 97th birthday

Joan Bartholomew

The wife of legendary comedian Eric Morecambe has died on her 97th birthday.

Joan Bartholomew, also known as Joan Morecambe, passed away on Tuesday March 26, her family has announced.

Online tributes to Joan, said that she and Eric were "a great partnership" and that she was "a fantastic lady".

She was made an OBE in 2015 for charitable services, and was the founder and president of the Lady Taverners, part of the Lord's Taverners youth cricket and disability sports charity, from 1987 to 1992.

A statement issued on behalf of her children said: “It is with great sadness and the heaviest of hearts that we must share the news that our mother, Joan, has passed away peacefully at the age of 97 after a short illness.

“Our family kindly requests some privacy during this time while we grieve our sad loss.”

Joan, nee Bartlett, was a former beauty queen who was crowned Miss Margate and Miss Kent in 1951.

She and Eric met when both were performing at the Edinburgh Empire.

Joan, a singer and dancer, had been sent there by the impresario Lew Grade to replace a girl who'd gone down with appendicitis, to do a walk-on part.

Eric asked Joan out straight away and said to the girl who introduced them 'That's the girl I'm going to marry!'

Their wedding was on December 11 1952 in Margate and they were together for 32 years until Eric's death, aged 58, in May 1984.

Eric and Joan had three children, Gary, Gail and Steven, and lived in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

Eric Bartholomew was born in Morecambe in 1926 and took his stage name of Eric Morecambe from the town of his birth.

He is renowned for his double act with Ernie Wise, who died in 1999.

Morecambe and Wise are among Britain's most loved entertainers of all-time and their 'The Morecambe and Wise Show' TV specials remain enduringly popular today.

The Eric Morecambe Statue was unveiled on Morecambe seafront in 1999 and is a hugely popular attraction for visitors to the town and residents alike. 

Joan was there for the unveiling, and also visited her husband's home town on several subsequent occasions, including when the statue was re-unveiled in 2014 after it was vandalised.

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