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An Isle of Wight man is remembering nearly 40 years of friendship with EastEnders actor June Brown, who died earlier this month.
Known for her long-running portrayal of Dot Cotton, June's family announced her “very peaceful” death at home, on Saturday, April 2.
June's chain-smoking launderette manager, "Dot", debuted on our television screens in July 1985. The mother of notorious "Nasty Nick" Cotton, Dot appeared in the soap until 1993 and then again between 1997 and 2020.
She is fondly remembered by Johnnie and Simon Martin, who live on the Island.
Around the time of her first appearance, on the show that remains a lynchpin for BBC primetime, Islander Johnnie Martin, now from Freshwater, sent a letter to the star.
To his surprise, she was keen to chat again and four decades later, they were confidantes, sharing their faith and their fabulous weekly chats.
Johnnie told the County Press: "It's been a wonderful 37 years. We could talk about anything and everything."
Johnnie and his husband Simon hosted June during her visit to the Isle of Wight, when she was aged in her late 80s. She stayed at their former Ventnor home and Johnnie recalls a 'lovely evening' in which 'we just chatted'.
June called Johnnie for a chat in January this year when her EastEnders co-star, Leonard Fenton who played Dr Legg, died. He was just a few months her senior and had joined the cast only a few months before she did.
June made Johnnie laugh and she was, he said: "Dedicated and she always acted with truth. She was a great perfectionist."
He says June pulled off an incredible transformation to play the role for which she was famous - swapping her modern clothes, glamour and beauty for Dot's iconic housecoat and bouffant hair.
Meanwhile, Johnnie's nickname is Dot, and and he remembers June telling him, "you're more like Dot than I am!"
Johnnie sent June boxes of lighters as gifts, ideal for the woman who made smoking her trademark.
The green ones (Dot's favourite) often appeared on set, including in an episode when the much-loved character was spending time in jail, after the death of her friend Ethel Skinner.
The lighter, prominently placed among her possessions and a slightly unlikely find in jail, was gifted to her by her Isle of Wight friend.
Johnnie told the County Press of the time June confided in him about her plan for a scene.
Dot is seen smoking in the launderette, before throwing her cigarette out what appears to be a fire door. When the scene finished, there was a "frantic stamping out of the cigarette" behind the set because, of course, it was not a proper fire door at all!
When an EastEnders 1999 special found key cast members, including Todd Carty and Tamzin Outhwaite, partying in what was supposed to be Brighton, they were actually in Hayling Island, near Portsmouth.
June invited Johnnie to what was a closed set and he ended up playing a barman in two episodes.
June appeared in 2884 episodes are created some of EastEnders' finest moments.
Johnnie says although June was unlike her on screen persona, he has Dot to thank for their enduring friendship and a relationship in which she told him she could be herself.
Paying tribute last week an EastEnders spokesperson said: "There are not enough words to describe how much June was loved and adored by everyone at EastEnders, her loving warmth, wit and great humour will never be forgotten.
Watch EastEnders when it was supposed to be set in Brighton...