The husband of Coronation Street legend Liz Dawn has spoken movingly of the actress’s final moments – less than a mile away from the TV studio where she had brought Vera Duckworth to life for decades.
Don Ibbetson, 77, told the Mirror of his pain at no longer having his wife of 52 years at his side.
He said that as she neared the end in the bed of her flat, Liz Dawn lifted her head and summoned the strength to sit up.
Now it was time for one final line. And it couldn’t be more important.
Clutching her husband’s hand, she said: “You don’t know how much I loved you, Don. I did from the very first moment we met.”
Then – surrounded by her beloved family – Liz slipped away.
Fittingly, her last words were for the man who inspired her to become one of our most cherished screen stars.
Don has now revealed the shattering moment doctors said there was nothing more they could do to save Liz, who lived 11 years longer than medics predicted.
And he movingly tells how the family, including their four children, came together hours after she died to toast her remarkable life.
“It still feels a little unreal Liz has gone,” Don says tearfully. “She’d come through so many problems, so we all thought she was kind of unbreakable.
“But she battled until the end. When she did go it was very peaceful.
“To the country she was Vera – and she loved that. But to all of us she was Liz – the most perfect wife, mother and grandmother. I will love her for the rest of my days.
“She knew the end was coming. But everyone got to see Liz. She even had a visit from her new great-grandson, only a week old. That was so special.
“After she died we all went into the lounge and raised a glass. We shared memories and what Liz meant to us.
“We went through every emotion and stayed up all night. The kids have been here ever since and been such strong support.”
The flat is adorned with memorable pictures. One, from 2000, shows Liz the day she received her MBE from the Queen. In another, she jokes with Prince Charles as he visited the Corrie set to mark the soap’s 40th Birthday.
And, of course, there are snaps of beloved co-star Bill Tarmey, who played TV husband Jack Duckworth. Bill died five years ago, aged 71.
But the picture that stands out is a 1960s snap Don keeps close to his armchair.
It shows him and Liz with their young family. He recalls: “We met in a pub in Leeds. I was an electrician and I was with a friend and she was with a friend. My first thoughts, I must be honest, were that I found Liz a wee bit annoying!
Liz had the procedure in the summer. But it led to a leak of blood and fluid which caused levels of carbon dioxide in her blood to soar.
She had a heart attack in September and was too weak to undergo more operations. Doctors discharged her a month ago.