The 95-year-old even planned a quip from BEYOND the grave – a tombstone inscribed: “Eee, he was old.”
Daughter-in-law Kim Wisdom told how the film and TV veteran never stopped wisecracking despite being plagued by strokes and dementia.
A day after his death plunged Albania, where he was a cult hero, into national mourning, Kim confirmed the family will honour his wishes about his gravestone.
She said, “He told me, ‘You know, I haven’t got long left’. I said, ‘Rubbish, Norman, you’ll get your letter from the Queen when you turn 100’.
“He said,’Well then, I want you to write on my gravestone,’Eee, he was old, and fell about laughing.
But that’s what we’ll do. He wanted people to stand at his grave and smile.”
Both were racing there after being told he was ailing – but he died in his sleep before they arrived.
Wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn, a friend of Sir Norman, described his death as “a very sad day” for British comedy.
She said: “There are not many comics of that stature any more.”
Comedian Roy Chubby Brown, also a pal, said sadly: “He was a comic genius.” Slapstick king Sir Norman became an icon in Albania after playing accident-prone Norman Pitkin in a series of films starting in the 1950s. They were the only western movies the communists allowed to be screened.
His 2002 hit ‘Big In Albania’ was played non-stop on radio.
Albanian PM Sali Berisha, 65, hailed him as “one of the dearest friends of our nation”.
He said, “On behalf of the government of Albania I would like to express heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family, his friends and the government of Her Majesty.”
Albanian ambassador Zef Mazi said: “Sir Norman was bigger than David Beckham.”