A touch of pink pays tribute to young Leah

POIGNANT tributes were paid to a young girl whose big smile brightened everyone’s day, and whose courageous cancer battle inspired everyone who knew her.

Even at her funeral Leah Wilby was beaming out at everyone from a framed photograph that sat simply on her white coffin facing the hundreds of people who gathered to pay their respects at St Nicholas Parish Church, Great Yarmouth, on Wednesday.

Most found somewhere to wear a touch of pink in tribute to Leah – from school chums wearing flowery hair slides to big bikers sweeping back wild tresses with pink bobbles.

The family shied away from traditional hymns, choosing instead a range of jingly pop songs that Leah loved, by artists like JLS and One Direction – some of whom she had met as part of the VIP treatment she was given because of the disease.

The service was conducted by the Rev Arthur Bowles who asked people to remember and celebrate Leah’s life.

Tributes tumbled from five of her friends who said she was a unique personality who forgave easily and made the impossible, possible.

A very positive girl, who lived her short life to the full, she was said to have an amazing sense of humour and to have put up “one heck of a fight.” One friend said she would “outshine all the angels in heaven.”

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Peter Jones, food technology teacher at Great Yarmouth High School, where Leah was a pupil, said she proved her talent for cookery but would “give a little growl and stamp her feet,” if something went wrong.

He said she was a hard-working student who achieved the high targets she set for herself. She was also an “enthusiastic and brilliant” artist who had plenty of ideas, as well as being gifted musically.

Her mother Debbie, wearing a top covered in colourful butterflies, said: “I can feel your love around me. Deep in the stillness I can still hear you speak. You are watching me from above.”

And sister Keata, 14, paid tribute to Leah’s fighting spirit saying they were “like two peas in a pod.”

The most moving moment came at the end when a recording of Leah playing Hallelujah on the organ was played, her father Richard planting a tender kiss on the coffin as the cortege made its way out of the church.

Afterwards John Catton, consultant headteacher at Great Yarmouth High School said: “The community of Great Yarmouth High School is stunned to learn of the death of Leah Wilby, a Year 11 student.

“This is a heartbreaking loss to Leah’s family. The school is extremely proud of Leah and what she achieved, both in and out of school, and in her tragically short life. Leah was a determined young lady at the same time as showing great sensitivity to those around her.”

A special assembly to remember Leah is being arranged, and staff will speak to Leah’s friends about commemorating her memory in some way.

Leah died on Monday June 13 aged 15 after a seven year battle with neuroblastoma which affects the nervous system. She remained upbeat until the end, sitting all her GCSEs in the hope of taking up a place at Great Yarmouth College, and was looking forward to wearing a lavish pink dress at her high school prom next month.

The funeral service was followed by a private family burial at Caister. Keata aims to carry out her sister’s wish to start fund-raising for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Clic Sargent.