THE ONES WE
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.
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