The widow of Blackpool entertainment great Keith Harris has told of her heartbreak at losing the love of her life “too soon”.
Sarah Harris had been with the ventriloquist for 19 years, and was mother to his two youngest children, teenagers Kitty and Shenton.
She has told how despite his battle with cancer the performer, whose double act with puppet Orville made millions laugh, “smiled and joked right to the very end”.
Mr Harris died in the early hours of Tuesday morning at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
He had been given the all clear from cancer of the spleen last year, having had the organ removed in a five-hour operation, but took ill again in January.
Mrs Harris, a former model, said: “I am absolutely devastated – Keith was the love of my life and I will never get over this heartbreak.
“We had a bond that was unbreakable, he was my rock and together we felt invincible.”
The family lived together in Poulton where Mr Harris opened up Club l’Orange (now Uber) in the 1990s.
They couple had met in 1996, after the Keith Harris Show had been axed and the entertainer later admitted he suffered with bouts of depression and turned to drink.
Sarah fell in love with him instantly.
“I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” she added “We started out as friends and it soon developed into a true love.”
They married in May 1999 and Kitty, now 15, arrived in March 2000 with Shenton, now 13, named after his father’s middle name, soon followed, in May 2001.
While Mr Harris was famed as an entertainer who captured the hearts of millions with his act, which translated across all ages, Mrs Harris has said he was so much more than a performer.
She said: “Although, Keith loved showbusiness, his love for us was the most important thing in his life and he did everything to make us happy.
“He was a devoted husband and father, romantic, fun loving and a true gentleman.
“He had wonderful old fashioned manners, which are hard to find these days.”
And he was a “hands on dad” with the children.
She said: “The children absolutely adored him.
“He taught them all the important lessons in life and was so gentle and kind with them.
“Kitty and Shenton will live their whole lives knowing that they were loved more than anything by their wonderful adoring father.”
Mr Harris was always a hit with children, even performing at private functions for Princes William and Harry during the 1980s.
Mrs Harris said: “He was a jack of all trades and master of one – ventriloquism.
“I don’t believe any ventriloquist will compare with Keith as he was so believable.
“He had the insight to change and move on. Keith was a very grounded person.
“He was a people’s man, down to earth and could mix with anyone from the man in street to Royalty.”
He will never be forgotten, his devastated wife said.
Mrs Harris added: “The memories will stay in my heart forever, until we meet again.”