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Jonnie Irwin's widow Jess reveals how she keeps his memory alive for three young sons

The Escape to the Country presenter passed away aged 50 in February

Belinda Robey
Assistant Editor
5 days ago
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Jess Irwin has given her first interview since the death of her husband Jonnie to HELLO! magazine. 

The presenter, who fronted Channel 4's travel property programme A Place in the Sun and the BBC's Escape to the Country, passed away in February at the age of 50, leaving behind his wife of seven years and their three sons Rex, five, and three-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac.

In this exclusive interview Jess tells the magazine how Jonnie is still very much part of her daily conversations with the boys. 

The couple never told them their dad was going to die and Jess still takes their lead on how much to say. 

Jessica Irwin and her three sons pose for HELLO! shoot
"Jonnie is present in so many of our chats," said Jess

How Jonnie's memory lives on

"Jonnie is present in so many of our chats. Rex will say: 'Would Daddy like to watch this?' or: 'Was this Daddy's favourite chocolate?' He wants to include him, whereas with the twins, it's more: 'I want Daddy to come back,' and I say: 'Yes, I do, too.'

"The other day Cormac asked: 'Can the spaceman not find him?' That broke my heart. Rex had these wrap-around sunglasses on when we went away recently and he pointed to the screws and said: 'Mummy, look – if you press this button, you can see up in the sky. And if you press this button, you can speak to Daddy.'

"I said: 'Oh wow, that's amazing. Can I borrow them?' and he just said: 'Of course,' so it's all been quite positive. And he's having support at school, which is great," she continues.

Jessica Irwin and her three sons pose for HELLO! shoot
The TV presenter passed away aged 50 in February

Jonnie's final days

In the emotional interview, Jess also talks for the first time about Jonnie's last days. 

He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020 (which metastasized to his brain) and revealed the diagnosis two years later in HELLO!. Jess cared for him at home, with the support of nurses, before he died from a lung infection his body was too weak to shake off.

"That whole week, I kept thinking: 'This can't be it,' because we were always told there would be a neurological decline. Two weeks before, he'd been playfully giving me grief for something, so I was still trying to get him to make plans and telling him off when I felt he was being negative. Now I wonder, did he know? 

"That's what makes me really, really, really sad, when I think what must have been going through his mind."

Jonnie Irwin explains why he didn't tell his children about his cancer diagnosis in tear-jerking video:

Jonnie's sisters Amanda and Charlotte were with them in his final week, sharing memories. One of the presenter's closest friends also moved in with relatives a few doors away and organised a rota of visitors from the guest list drawn up for Jonnie's 50th birthday party.

He had celebrated his milestone early and during the celebrations, his A Place in the Sun co-host Jasmine Harman had presented him with an album of photographs of his time on the show.

"Sometimes he wasn't up to seeing anyone so they'd have to wait," Jess tells us. "The twins didn't see him, but Rex went up to show him something, very close to the end, and I think he knew something wasn't right because he kissed Jonnie's hand."

Missing her life partner

Jessica Irwin poses for HELLO! shoot
"We weren't best friends, we were lovers; there was passion," Jess said of her late husband

Jess also had precious time alone with the handsome cheeky chappy she called "my favourite", who swept her off to Paris for their second date, gave her the confidence to quit a job she loved to go travelling with him, and made her laugh like no one else.

"He told me: 'I'm so happy I met you,' and that he knew the boys would have the most joy and fun a person could bring," she says, smiling through her tears. "We had so much fun, Jonnie and me. We were never boring. We weren't best friends, we were lovers; there was passion."

To read the full interview, pick up the latest issue of HELLO! on sale in the UK now. You can subscribe to HELLO! to get the magazine delivered free to your door every week or purchase the digital edition online via our Apple or Google apps.

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