Watch: The Vicar of Dibley’s emotional tribute to Alice Tinker
Emma Chambers – who starred as verger Alice in the hit BBC sitcom – tragically died aged 53 from a sudden heart attack in 2018, and comedy vicar Geraldine Granger put laughter aside to remember her character as the latest lockdown Christmas special aired on Monday night.
French, in character as Geraldine, became emotional as she revealed: “Okay friends, dear friends, this is going to be a weird one, as it's about love, and laughter and loss.
"Because Dibley is such full of life but everywhere I go now, if I'm standing in my kitchen, if I go into the vestry, it's always little Alice Tinker I see. And she died, three years ago this week."
She went on: "Who is the person I've most loved in my life? Well I'm very fond of my handsome husband, but in the end it's got to be her. My own darling dumb blonde.
"She had one husband, six children and three brain cells. But so much love in her heart she could defrost a frozen pizza on a winter's day. She wasn't the brightest bulb in the box but when we lost her, all our lights went out."
The vicar revealed the character of Alice had died of cancer.
Geraldine added tearfully: "I believe in eternal life in heaven but I also believe in eternal life on earth, because those who die are eternally here, alive in our memories and in who we are."
"Because of… because of how they changed us.
"So message for today, love the ones you're with especially today in these hardest of times and God bless you all."
The sensitive tribute to Chambers’ Alice Tinker was in contrast to how late stars of the sitcom John Bluthal and Roger Lloyd-Pack’s characters were remembered in the first lockdown special.
Bluthal, who died in November 2018 at the age of 89, played Frank Pickle, who Geraldine shouted at off camera when he interrupted her sermon.
The vicar also read out a crude letter from farmer Owen Newitt, played by Lloyd-Pack, who died at the age of 69 in 2014.
The Vicar of Dibley ran for two seasons between 1994 and 1998, and produced 10 special episodes as well as six Comic Relief offerings.
Watch: Dawn French talks about filming her emotional tribute