The Death of Roger Tonge

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Article by John Scott

Weeping fans yesterday watched the final episode in Crossroads star Roger Tonge's story of courage.  It was staged in the church where he had often prayed for strength during his long battle against cancer.  St. Faith and St. Lawrence, near Roger's home in Harbourne, Birmingham, was packed with grieving fans and friends.

Outside in the freezing cold, hundreds more paid silent tribute to the 35 year old actor, who played crippled Sandy Richardson in the hit TV serial.  Widow Florence Teager, from King's Heath, Birmingham, explained:  "I just had to come and pay my respects.  Roger's death was like losing one of my own family."

The Crossroads cast and production team broke off rehearsals at the nearby ATV studios to attend the funeral.  And Roger's secret girlfriend - dark-haired actress Sonia Fox - was at the side of his grief-stricken pensioner parents, Percy and Lillian.  Sonia, who once played Roger's sister-in-law in the show, sent a dozen red roses with the message: 'All my love, always.'

Roger's screen sister Jill - Jane Rossington - read the lesson and her real-life brother, the Reverend John Rossington, conducted the service.  Alongside a display of lilies, carnations and gladioli from the Crossroads team was a similar tribute from the stars of Coronation Street.  Noele Gordon, Sandy's mother Meg Richardson in the show, is in Australia.  She sent a message of sympathy to Roger's parents.

Roger became a household name after quitting his 8 a week Post Office job to play Sandy when Crossroads started 17 years ago.  Doctors told him seven years ago he had deadly Hodgkin's disease.  He bravely carried on - but his fight for life ended last week in a Surrey hospital.     

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