Tributes to ‘irreplaceable’ Preston and Blackpool Slimming World organiser

Pearl Coia was known and loved for her razor-sharp Scouse wit. The 70-year-old died at collapsing while out with a friend.
Pearl Coia was known and loved for her razor-sharp Scouse wit. The 70-year-old died at collapsing while out with a friend.
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A popular Slimming World organiser died after collapsing at a restaurant table while eating out with a friend.

Pearl Coia was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where her family rushed to be by her side, after falling ill while reading a menu.

But the loving mum and grandmother , 70, whose funeral was held yesterday, had suffered a bleed on the brain, and medics could not save her.

Her daughter Nicole said: “She is going to leave a hole in our lives. I don’t think it’s hit us yet because we have had so much support and messages from people. We are never going to have her coming through the door again, with her sense of humour.”

Mrs Coia’s colleague Angy Smith said the Liverpudlian, who organised a slimming group in Preston, was a ‘real character’ with a ‘sharp, Scouse wit’.

She said: “We will never replace her. She has helped thousands of people. They were going to hold the service at the crematorium but they knew there would not be enough room.”

Mrs Coia, of St Annes, had three Slimming World groups after launching Blackpool’s first in the 1990s, at the Holy Cross Parish Church in Central Drive, Blackpool, St John Vianney’s in Glastonbury Avenue, Blackpool, and in Fulwood, Preston.

After preparing for her Saturday morning class, she was picked up by a friend on the evening of Friday, June 22, and driven to Rigby’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Warton.

Angy said: “Unfortunately, before they even had a chance to order – she just picked the menu up – she collapsed.”

Nicole added: “They ordered drinks and she did not even manage to get that. At least she was having a laugh and a giggle with her friend.”

Mrs Coia died in the early hours of Saturday and, still in a shock, Angy took her session just hours later – and broke the news to those signed up.

“People were coming in and saying, ‘Where is she, is she on holiday?’,” she said.

“There was a lot of tears in the group, from people that have known her for years. People were loyal and loved her.”

Mrs Coia’s funeral, led by Rev David Lyons, was held at St Annes Parish Church from 12.30pm, followed by a committal at Park Crematorium in Lytham and wake at the Fylde Rugby Club.

Nicole and Natalie, Mrs Coia’s step-daughter, read eulogies, while hymns included Abide With Me and O Lord My God. The entrance music was Handel’s Messiah.

Natalie said Mrs Coia was “a great laugh, at ease in front of a crowd and always had time for people.”

Mrs Coia was also mum to the late Alex, husband to Tony, and grandmother to five grandchildren: James, Grace, Keaton, Niamh, and Tilly-Pearl.