Charity volunteers led a procession of mourners to say farewell to a popular young colleague.
Dean Hill was just 24 when he died after a battle with a rare viral infection on Christmas Eve.
Dean, from Washington Village, was a long-serving member of the St John Ambulance and his colleagues led a procession behind his coffin to the Our Blessed Lady Immaculate church, in Village Lane, from his home.
Hundreds of people crammed into the church to pay their respects to the young IT worker.The former St Robert of Newminster student had been battling mycarditis for a few months, including a couple of stays in hospital.
His symptoms had started with a cough and he had gone on to suffer blood clots.
However, he seemed to be on the mend and was allowed to return to his home in Spout Lane.
Dean was a lovely, caring and gentle personMichael McCoy
But, tragcially, Dean was found dead in bed by his dad, Colin, 58, just hours later.
At the service, Father Michael McCoy spoke about Dean’s popularity and how he touched the lives of many people.
He said: “Dean was a lovely, caring and gentle person. He did his best to reach out to others.
“He valued people very much. He was an unassuming and private person at heart.”
Father McCoy said Dean loved to travel and had made many trips to many interesting places, including Japan and America.
And he told those gathered that, although it was short, they should celebrate the life of Dean, the friendships he forged, the changes he made and the impact he has left in so many hearts.
Dean was dedicated to his work with the St John Ambulance and was looking to return to university to retrain as a paramedic, his dream job.
Dad Colin, and his wife Sheena, 54, said they have been left devastated by their son’s death.
Dean, who worked for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, also loved meeting stars of the big screen.
Sheena said: “He just loved being part of the St John Ambulance, and was very proud of it. He always just wanted to help other people and we are so proud of him. He was a lovely lad, and very gentle and caring.
“He loved where he lived and said that he never wanted to move out of Washington Village. It’s a comfort to know he will always be where he wanted to be.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “It is such sad news to hear of the passing of Dean.
“When I met him at ademonstration in Washington we had a long conversation and he came across as a lovely, dedicated young man with a very community-minded outlook on life, which was very evident in his knowledge and enthusiasm for St John Ambulance service, which should be commended.
“My sincere thoughts go out to his family at this very difficult time.”
Simon Dunn, Regional Director at St John Ambulance said: “The sudden death of Dean at such a very young age is truly tragic.
“Dean was an extremely popular volunteer with St John Ambulance and will be very sadly missed by all his colleagues. Our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”