Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By PAUL BRIT­TON paul.brit­[email protected] @PaulBrit­tonMEN

GREATER Manch­ester - and the na­tion - said good­bye to fa­mous faces from all walks of life in 2019. Stars from the sport­ing world, ac­tors, mu­si­cians and en­ter­tain­ers were all lost.

Their work in­spired, amused and in­formed.

Here the M.E.N. salutes their work and pays trib­ute to just a few of the un­sung com­mu­nity cham­pi­ons from Greater Manch­ester who passed away in 2019.

JAN­UARY thrilled,

DIANNE OXBERRY: Much-loved BBC pre­sen­ter Dianne passed away at the Christie Hospital on Jan­uary 10 after an ill­ness. The mother-of-two was 51. Dianne was one of the most recog­nised faces on TV in the re­gion, hav­ing worked on North West Tonight for more than 20 years.

JU­LIA GRANT: A Trans­gen­der ac­tivist and campaigner for Manch­ester’s Gay Vil­lage, Ju­lia was 64. She owned Hollywood Show­bar on Canal Street and was the star of BBC doc­u­men­tary A Change of Sex, back in 1979. It is be­lieved to be the first doc­u­men­tary film made about trans­gen­der is­sues and charted her tran­si­tion. Ju­lia also pub­lished book Just Ju­lia: The Story of an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Woman in 1994 about her own tran­si­tion and the strug­gles of trans­gen­der peo­ple.

GENE OK­ER­LUND: The most fa­mous in­ter­viewer in wrestling his­tory was 76. Nick­named ‘Mean Gene’, the leg­endary mi­cro­phone king from Sis­se­ton, South Dakota was in­ducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006


KARL LAGER­FELD: The fash­ion icon died in Paris after a can­cer bat­tle. The cre­ative di­rec­tor of Chanel was one of the most in­flu­en­tial and cel­e­brated fash­ion de­sign­ers of the 21st cen­tury.

ERIC HAR­RI­SON: Iconic for­mer United coach Har­ri­son died aged 81. He was di­ag­nosed with de­men­tia in 2014 and spent his fi­nal few months in a nurs­ing home. Dur­ing his 27 years as youth-team man­ager at United, Eric nur­tured the likes of David Beck­ham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Paul Sc­holes into first-team play­ers. Har­ri­son was awarded an MBE for his ser­vices to foot­ball in 2018.

GOR­DON BANKS: The leg­endary Eng­land goal­keeper was 81. Re­garded as one of the game’s great­est in his po­si­tion, Banks was named FIFA goal­keeper of the year six times and earned 73 caps for Eng­land. A na­tional trea­sure, Banks was awarded an OBE in 1970 – the same year he made the so-called ‘save of the cen­tury’ to deny Brazil le­gend Pele at the World Cup in Mex­ico.

AL­BERT FIN­NEY: A Sal­ford lad who be­came one of Bri­tain’s most cel­e­brated ac­tors, Fin­ney was 82 when he passed away after a short ill­ness. Fin­ney re­ceived five Os­car nom­i­na­tions, but never won. He turned down a CBE in 1980 and re­fused a knight­hood in 2000. The ac­tor was best known for roles in Satur­day Night, Sun­day Morning, Erin Brock­ovich, Mur­der On The Orient Ex­press, Sky­fall and An­nie.


SCOTT WALKER: Walker Broth­ers star Scott was 76. Born Noel Scott Engel, he starred in the Amer­i­can pop trio, pop­u­lar in the 1960s and 1970s, along­side John Walker and Gary Leeds. The trio en­joyed a me­te­oric rise to fame in the 1960s, es­pe­cially in the UK, where song The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any­more be­came a huge hit.

MICHAEL POW­ELL: Michael was chief li­brar­ian at Chetham’s Li­brary and died aged 64. He worked at the li­brary, the old­est free pub­lic ref­er­ence li­brary in the UK, for more than 30 years and was pas­sion­ate about the his­tory of Manch­ester.

MIKE THA­LAS­SI­TIS: The Love Is­land re­al­ity TV star was just 26. His body was found in woods near his Es­sex home. Tha­las­si­tis was a for­mer League Two foot­baller who found fleet­ing fame on the ITV2 dat­ing show in 2017. His death high­lighted the pres­sures faced by the re­al­ity TV show con­tes­tants.

LUKE PERRY: Beverly Hills 90210 heart­throb Perry was 52 when he passed away after suf­fer­ing a stroke. He was rushed to hospital but never re­cov­ered.

KEITH FLINT: Prodigy front­man and hell-raiser Flint died at the age of 49 on March 4. The Firestarte­r singer was found dead at his home in Es­sex.

CRAIG BIESZKE: The much-loved Manch­ester club pro­moter was 35 and a well-known face on the city’s so­cial scene. He pro­moted nights at celebrity haunt Panacea on John Dalton Street and was reg­u­larly snapped out and about with celebrity pals in the city cen­tre, in­clud­ing re­al­ity TV’s Ex On The Beach star Char­lotte Daw­son. Also work­ing in events and pro­mo­tions, he was a model and grew up in Chea­dle Hulme.


PETER MAY­HEW: The 7ft 3ins tall ac­tor passed away in Texas at the age of 74. A Bri­tish-Amer­i­can, May­hew played the Wook­iee war­rior Chew­bacca in the revered Star Wars se­ries of films.

RAY BODDINGTON: Ray, the iconic and much-loved front­man of Manch­ester band Pic­cadilly Rats, died on April 18, aged 77. The singer, who was struck by a tram in Manch­ester city cen­tre, was in hospital sur­rounded by his fam­ily. Well known as a busker in his home­town, he had pre­vi­ously ap­peared on The X Fac­tor and Judge Rin­der.

OLIVER HAR­RI­SON: Lead­ing fig­ures from across the world of box­ing paid trib­ute to hugely re­spected coach Oliver Har­ri­son fol­low­ing his death aged 59. The Sal­ford trainer, who ran Oliver’s Gym in Pendle­ton, was in the corner for the early part of Amir Khan’s pro ca­reer.

THE GREAT STROM­BOLI: Trib­utes were paid in April to The Great Strom­boli - a fire eater and cir­cus per­former who ded­i­cated his life to the art of en­ter­tain­ment. Real name Daniel Lynch, his ca­reer as a show­man took him around the world, but home was al­ways Stonecloug­h in Bolton. Mr Lynch, who was 92, ran a tour­ing sideshow which reg­u­larly starred at Belle Vue cir­cus in Gor­ton dur­ing the 1950s and 60s.

WA­HEED CHOUIHI: With a pair of scis­sors in hand and a cheeky grin on his face, Wa­heed Chouihi held court at the Vil­lage Bar­ber in West Dids­bury for 25 years. He passed away from a sus­pected heart at­tack aged 52.

BERNARD HALFORD: A le­gend at City, and life pres­i­dent, Halford was 77 when he passed away. After five decades of ser­vice, he was known to many sim­ply as ‘Mr Manch­ester City’.


JU­DITH KERR: The Tiger Who Came To Tea au­thor Ju­dith Kerr was 95 when she died. The leg­endary au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor, who was awarded an OBE, stole the hearts of gen­er­a­tions of

Dianne Oxberry

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