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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Sam Elliott-Gibbs

Inside June Brown's life - children, husband and devastating off screen heartbreak

As one of soap's favourite stars, there isn't much EastEnders fans didn't know about chain-smoking knicker-washer Dot Cotton.

But June Brown also endured a turbulent life away from the Albert Square set too as she bravely overcame a number of tragic deaths which rocked her early years.

Refusing to be broken by the devastating loss of her husband, two siblings and her daughter, you soon discover why the the strong 95-year-old became a certified national treasure.

The star of course graced our screens for over three decades as the devout Christian laundrette assistant, but it wasn't just Dot who needed her faith to get her through.

As we say goodbye to one of British TV's all-time favourites, the Mirror takes a look at her off-camera family life and what powered her to carry on performing.

Early torment

The actress' early life was filled with devastating losses and torment (BBC)

June didn't hang around when it came to finding love.

As a teenager she caught the eye of actor John Garley, and the pair fell head over heels for each other, meeting in 1950 at The Old Vic Theatre School which she attended after the war ended.

They married when June was 23-years-old but there was heartache ahead seven years later.

John Garley tragically took his life in 1957 after suffering from depression.

"I walked into the bedroom and there was Johnny, lying on the bed, the gas fire propped up next to him," she told The Sun in 2017.

"Suicide was still a criminal offence in the late-Fifties. I'd got him breathing again but it was obvious he'd suffered severe brain damage."

Sibling heartache

June lost a brother and a sister within a few years of each other (BBC)

June never got over losing her big sister when she was just eight years ago, three years after the death of brother John Peter.

The loss of beloved Marise over 80 years ago still affected her in her final years.

Her sibling died of mastoiditis, an ear infection, and nothing could be done to save her life.

"My life was changed twice by death," she wrote in her autobiography.

'I’ve never felt such loneliness. Her death was the defining moment of my life. Micie was the only person to know the real me. The result was that I’ve spent my life looking for a companion who could show me the same sort of love. I’ve never found anyone to match her."

Finding love again

Robert Arnold changed her life - and they built an incredible family (Reveille)

She later married actor Robert Arnold and the pair had six children together in seven years.

She spent 45 years with him until his death in 2003 of Lewy-body dementia.

June said Robert believed that their old Folkestone home was haunted.

She described it as "a bit odd" - but loved living in Kent.

She said: “The people in Folkestone are pretty relaxed and they don’t stare at you when they pass you in the street, I much prefer that.

“I don’t mind talking to people but I have never seen what I do as anything other than my job. I’ve never been the celebrity sort.”

Losing a child

Her children saw June awarded her MBE for services to Drama and Charity from the Queen (PA)
But the family will always remember tragic Chloe (REX/Shutterstock)

The proud mum-of-five lived for her children - but she always reserved a special place in her heart for little Chloe.

William, Naomi, Sophie, Lousie were joined by a girl she and husband Robert also decided to name Chloe.

The tragic tot arrived at 28 weeks weighing barely two pounds.

June can’t be sure what went wrong, but believes food from a feeding tube got into Chloe’s fragile lungs.

But despite losing a child, she always refused to say she has had a troubled life.

"I can’t say my life has been dominated by tragedy," she said. "I refuse to accept that. I’ve had less than some, more than others."

Refusal to stop living life

The actress made sure Dot Cotton was one of soap's most-loved characters ever (Comic Relief via Getty Images)

June lived an indulgent life, refusing to give up cigarettes, red wine or dark chocolate.

She told The Radio Times: “I’m going to die of something fairly soon, so why not enjoy myself.

"I love red wine and also dark chocolate, even though I’m allergic to it and it makes me sneeze - and the Guinness helps me keep a bit of weight on. So I don’t need to be careful about what I eat or drink.

"What’s the point of counting how many cigarettes I smoke a day? I’ve been on them for over 70 years.”

But the star is no different to the rest of us when it comes to relaxing on the sofa, enjoying David Attenborough documentaries and Loose Women on the TV.

She also dedicates her energy to supporting local charities, and in 2012 she was appointed the first patron of Brighton Gay Men's Chorus, performing with the group at the Brighton Dome.

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