Hundreds gather to say goodbye to 'beautiful' Michael Doda

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Hundreds of people came together to say goodbye to much-loved lad Michael Doda.

The 24-year-old from Town End Farm, died suddenly while out walking with his beloved dog Simba on January 26.

Flowers left in memory of Michael.

Flowers left in memory of Michael.

His two-year-old American akita stayed by his side until help arrived after Michael was found in East Boldon by a passer-by.

Today, hundreds of mourners filled Sunderland Crematorium to pay their last respects to a lad described as having a 'heart of gold.'

The service began with a procession led by Michael's dog Simba followed by a white horse-drawn carriage covered in flowers left by friends and family.

Once inside, those gathered listened to 'You Are So Beautiful' by Joe Cocker, before humanist minister Graeme Flaxen invited Michael's friend Chris Bradshaw to pay tribute to him.

The funeral procession was led by a horse-drawn carriage.

The funeral procession was led by a horse-drawn carriage.

Directing his words to the family, he said: "Everybody always told me how much love he had inside of him.

"He was so beautiful.

"'Project love,' that's what Michael was always saying to me.

"I can never replace Michael, but I will always be there for you."

Hundreds turned out to pay their last respects to Michael Doda.

Hundreds turned out to pay their last respects to Michael Doda.

Describing Michael, Minister Flaxen said: "He was in the prime of his life.

"He was someone who was so gifted and someone who was so special in every way."

The congregation then listened to 'Why' by Rascal Flatts, before Minister Flaxen added': "Michael had the unique ability to touch the lives of people."

'Gone Too Soon' by Michael Jackson was then played while friends and family remembered special times they shared with Michael.

The funeral procession for Michael Doda, led by his dog Simba.

The funeral procession for Michael Doda, led by his dog Simba.

The minster read out tributes from each of Michael's sisters, with Naomi Doda saying: "Michael loved nature and felt his best when walking out in the woods.

"He was so laid back- I had lost count of the amount of times he lost his car keys!

"He was very ambitious and was taking a course in textiles so he could design T-shirts and hats.

"I was always really proud of him.

"We had nothing growing up, but the one thing we did have was each other.

"I think the message I will take from Michael is love."

The funeral procession led by Michael's dog Simba.

The funeral procession led by Michael's dog Simba.

His sister Gemma Carr added: "I love you so much and I am going to miss you so much.

"I am no longer scared of dying because I know you will be there waiting for me."

His girlfriend Emily Christie also paid tribute: "Thank you for making the last five years of my life so special."

Mum Michelle Doda added: "When I had Michael I felt so blessed. He was a gift from God.

"He was my beautiful boy and the most precious love of my life .

"He had a heart of gold and words cannot describe how much he meant to me.

"Rest in the arms of angels son. Until we meet again."

Those gathered then listened to song 'Wind Beneath My Wings' by Bette Midler.

Michael, who lived in Bognor Street, was a former student electrician at Hylton College and Port of Tyne driver.

He leaves four sisters - Naomi Doda, 37, Gemma Carr, 33, Natalie Doda, 32, Vanessa Doda, 27, and girlfriend Emily Christie, 19.

He was also cousin to Sarah Mills, Liane Shippin, Stephen Rayne, Carmel Major, Christopher Jackson and Wendy Mills.

He was an uncle of four to Callum Burlinson, Ebony Carr, Elisse Carr and Autumn Ingram.

The family wished to thank Northumbria Police and local resident Paul Phillips for their assistance.

They also wished to thank Steve Smith for donating the horse and carriage in the funeral procession and the community for their support.

On leaving 'Foggy Dew - Hypnotize' by Robbie Mulcaire was played and donations were made to the Samaritans charity.

Some floral tributes to Michael Doda.

Some floral tributes to Michael Doda.

Hundreds gathered at Sunderland Crematorium to say goodbye to Michael Doda.

Hundreds gathered at Sunderland Crematorium to say goodbye to Michael Doda.

Floral tributes to Michael Doda.

Floral tributes to Michael Doda.