Hosts Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes broke the news of her death to viewers, following the announcement on Facebook that the show’s resident agony aunt had lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.
Eamonn, who recently underwent a double hip replacement, returned to the show early from his sick leave so he could front the show with his wife, having known Denise personally for over 30 years.
Fellow co-hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield are both currently away on holiday, but called in to honour Denise, as did former presenter Fern Britton and original hosts Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan.
Telling viewers it was a “difficult day” for all the ‘This Morning’ team, Ruth and Eamonn begun the show by reading out a statement from Denise’s family.
“It is with the deepest possible sorrow that we announce the passing of a very great lady. Our dearest Denise Robertson lost her short battle with cancer today at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London,” it read.
“We send out gratitude to the many thousands of people who have sent messages of love, support, and prayers during these difficult weeks, these sustained and delighted her immeasurably.
“The care Denise received from Professor Cunningham, Dr Tait and all the staff at the hospital was above and beyond anything we could have hoped for.
“The world has lost an extraordinary woman. We know that her ITV family, the ‘This Morning’ viewers and the incalculable numbers of people she has helped and causes she has championed during her 83 years, will be grieving with us at this intensely painful time.”
On the phone, Holly shared her sadness, saying: “I found out yesterday, but hearing you guys talk about it now is so much more real. She was such a big part of the family. When I joined she was so welcoming.
“She was a real fighter for everybody, there is nothing that she wouldn’t do. It’s so sad, so, so sad."
She added: “It never prepares you for a loss like this. You still think she’s going to walk down the corridor.”
Over FaceTime, Phillip also told Eamonn and Ruth: “This is absolutely heartbreaking. Obviously everyone wanted her to be back on the sofa, but deep down I think we knew she wasn’t going to be back. No matter how prepared you are it’s always a terrible shock.
“When I started, she was the person I wanted the approval of the most. It was the most incredible feeling that Denise approved.”
His former co-host Fern, who hosted the show from 1999 until 2009, also called in to pay tribute.
“She was so wonderfully funny, I will never forget that,” she said. “She’s an absolute sex bomb.
“We’d gossip backstage, and laugh so much,” she continued, revealing that her fondest memories involving sharing a pot of tea with her.
“Not only did she like tea, but she loved a glass of wine. She was a woman who I very much admired and one I will never forget.”
Richard and Judy also hailed her as “the best agony aunt in the business”.
“It is a very sad day,” Richard said. “She actually made a difference, she gave very wise counsel, and we both thought she was the best agony aunt in the business. She genuinely cared.
Judy added: “She was absolutely 100% genuine. She was full of good words and good faith.”
Speaking of her commitment to callers she offered advice to on the show, she continued: “Off screen she would be on the phone for the rest of the day. We were tremendously fond of her. She was the best agony aunt, the best of her generation, without any doubt.”
Ruth and Eamonn were also joined on the sofa by some of the show’s extended family, including Rylan Clark-Neal, soap expert Sharon Marshall, chef Phil Vickery and Dr Chris Steele, who had been on the show with Denise since it began in 1988.
“I can’t believe it, it’s very hard to talk about,” Chris said.
Sharon added: “We are so lucky that we knew her. I’ve had 13 years of gin and gossip. I’m just so pleased that I had her in my life.”
The show then aired a moving montage of her 28 years on the show, which also featured the defining moment she spoke to a domestic abuse victim who called into tell her that violent husband had locked her in the house.
Denise shared news of her cancer diagnosis with fans in February, and in the weeks that followed, she spoke to Holly and Phillip live on air, thanking fans for their kind words.
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