Gloria Hunniford has said she is “humbled” to have been awarded an OBE and that if her daughter was alive she would be “so excited” for her.
The broadcaster is a familiar face on the small screen having spent 70 years in showbusiness, but it is her contributions to cancer charities through breast screening services and cancer support that have earned her the accolade in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The Loose Women and Rip Off Britain star said she has found it difficult to keep the honour a secret because she was surprised by the accolade.
Gloria lost her daughter Caron Keating, also a TV presenter, to breast cancer in 2004 just hours after she was brought home for the last time to see her family, including her two sons.
After Caron’s death, Gloria and her sons Paul and Michael set up the Caron Keating Foundation, which gives grants to all types of cancer charities in the UK, financing professional carers, support groups and counselling services, helping to fund pieces of machinery for faster detection, drivers to take cancer patients to and from treatment centres and complementary therapies to help with pain control.
Upon learning of the OBE, Gloria told the Press Association: “I can’t really begin to tell you how thrilled I am to receive it.
“I never expected to receive an award like this and I’m so thrilled for my family as well.
“At the same time I’m very humbled by it, because I know how many people throughout the country work in terms of charity, or whatever it is they do.
“It has been very difficult to keep it a secret because obviously we hear quite far in advance and the only person who knew was my husband.”
She added: “Then one day I happened to be with my two boys and I thought, ‘I have to tell them, I can’t keep it in any longer’. I only told them a week or so ago.”
Gloria said: “They were so pleased for me but also pleased for the family. I know if Caron were here, she’d be just so excited by the whole thing.”
The 77-year-old, who has no plans to retire from broadcasting, said she is proud of the family-run organisation, which she said has raised “about £5 million” over the years for charities across the UK.
Gloria, the organisation’s administrator, said: “There is one charity, Action Cancer, who last year screened 10,000 women in Northern Ireland and it’s very gratifying to do something so positive against something so negative as losing a child.
“It’s part of my healing to do this.”
Gloria began her career aged seven as a singer alongside her father who worked in advertising but also performed as a magician.
Born Mary Winifred Gloria Hunniford in Portadown in Co Armagh, she started her career in television in her native Northern Ireland, working on Good Evening Ulster and Sunday, Sunday, before going to London to work on We Love TV and Open House With Gloria Hunniford.
Since then she has been a continuous presence in living rooms around the country, on Loose Women, This Morning, Rip Off Britain, Home Away From Home and Food: Truth Or Scare.
Looking ahead to the day she will receive the award, Gloria said: “I’m going to have a whacking big party in the evening for all the people who have really changed my life en route, or really meant something.
“I believe that your life goes in landmark situations and so I’m going to make a list of all the people who have really been of great assistance or changed my life.
“Unfortunately some of them aren’t around but those who are will be celebrating.”