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EASTENDERS BIG RON DIES OF CANCER AT 60.

Eastenders favourite Big Ron has died of stomach cancer.

The 60-year-old - real name Ron Tarr - fought a brave battle against the disease and had several operations to save his life.

After learning of his illness he told pals: "I don't want to lose my beard or too much weight because I won't look like Big Ron anymore."

Ron had been in the BBC soap since its launch 12 years ago and had a cult following.

Five months after starting, the market trader was given his first line. Ordering a pint from Queen Vic landlord Dirty Den he asked: "All right, Den?"

Devastated EastEnders pal Michelle Collins, 33 - who played Cindy Beale - said last night: "Ron was the gentlest of giants, a wonderful, funny and compassionate man.

"I saw him two weeks ago and he was being brave and hiding the fact he was so ill."

Ron became friends with other cast members including Barbara Windsor, Gillian Taylforth and Ross Kemp. Ex-EastEnder Michael Cashman said: "I was extremely fond of Ron. The show won't be the same."

Another cast member added: "This is terrible news and will be a real blow to the rest of the cast. Ron was really popular and always had a smile."

Long-term girlfriend Maggie Kinsella said: "He was the salt of the earth, very down to earth and good to whoever he met.

"Ron was a truly wonderful person and a thoroughly decent human being. He was a true friend and I will miss him terribly."

During the 1980s Ron starred in the Do It All DIY television adverts and also appeared in Are You Being Served.

Earlier this year he spent two days in hospital having cancer treatment.

But colleagues at the BBC's Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire said he tried to hide his suffering from them.

Ron played for the EastEnders football team but often turned out for the women's five-a-side. He told pals: "It's only a laugh." He first joined the set of Albert Square as an extra, propping up the Queen Vic bar when not working on his market stall.

He became an overnight hit and TV chiefs were deluged with fan mail.

Producers gave Ron dialogue every few months to please his fans.

A BBC spokesman said yesterday: "He became an unlikely hero for regular viewers very soon after the show began.

"Our thoughts are with his family. It's a terrible loss and everybody will miss him."

Last year Ron's character sparked drama on Albert Square when he was struck down with a heart attack.

He "recovered" and was soon back selling pots and pans on the market.

Along with several other popular extras Ron, who lived with girlfriend Maggie in Watford, Herts, had been upgraded from "regular supporting artist" and was seen on screen often.

He and pal Ulric Browne - who plays Queen Vic drinker Winston - were always invited to cast parties.
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Author:Hughes, Chris
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 22, 1997
Words:481
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