The brave nine-year-old daughter of a man who died suddenly opened his packed funeral by speaking warmly of her “superstar” dad.
Leah Chessell told people at her father Barry’s service at Sunderland Crematorium how he had helped save the lives of five others because he was an organ donor.
The schoolgirl also spoke of the happy memories she has of the 32-year-old, from their visits to the park and family holidays, to collecting leaves to turn into pictures and his brilliant cookery skills.
Leah and her brother Callum, six, had laid flowers on top of their dad’s coffin as the funeral began.
Motor mad Barry, who died after suffering a brain haemorrhage, was taken to the crematorium in a converted Land Rover Series III, with around a dozen more of the vehicles following on. Drivers also decorated the top of their vehicles with flowers as the procession left Barry’s home in Plains Farm.
Following Leah’s speech, which was met with a round of applause at its close, words were also read on behalf of his wife Gemma, 30, who told of how she and Barry, from Kent, became devoted to each other and their children after starting a long distance relationship when he lived in Kent.
As a club, when we heard about what had happened, we felt we wanted to see our member off.North East Land Rovers Owners club secretary Paul Walton
Memories were also read out from his brothers Ian, Tony and Lee.
More than 100 people gathered for the final farewell to the “Formula One fork lift truck driver”, who loved his job at Vantec and was known by the nickname Eyeball, given to him when his dad saw him for the first time and he had just one eye open. Mourners were dressed in bright clothing at the request of Barry’s loved ones, with the service filled with laughter as well as tears as recollections of kind-hearted Barry were read.
They were also invited to write notes of their memories and messages, which were placed on his coffin, while photos from Barry’s childhood, family snaps and wedding pictures were screened through a slideshow.
Gemma and Barry’s wedding song Endless Love, by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross, was played, as was In My Life by the Beatles at its close. Care support worker Louise Forbes, a life-long friend of Gemma, launched a Go Fund Me campaign to gather funds to cover funeral costs.
Within days, it hit its £1,000 and has since raised more than £3,000, with the remaining money to help support Gemma and their children.
Louise said: “It just goes to show how popular he was.
“People wanted to do everything they could to help. I just couldn’t believe it all came in within three days.”
Barry had recently become a member of the North East Rover Owners (NERO) club, which gathered members together for the service.
Its secretary Paul Walton said: “As a club, when we heard about what had happened, we felt we wanted to see our member off.”
Gemma has sent her thanks to all those who have helped her since Barry’s shock death on Friday, September 11, including funeral director Tony Clarke.
Barry also leaves his parents Barry and Lin, who he “idolised.”
Donations will be donated to Macmillan.