HUNDREDS of balloons drifted into the sky as the mist parted and the sun streamed through. They had been released by family and friends to raise money for leukaemia research in memory of teenager Joe Males after his emotional funeral at St Mary s Church,
HUNDREDS of balloons drifted into the sky as the mist parted and the sun streamed through.
They had been released by family and friends to raise money for leukaemia research in memory of teenager Joe Males after his emotional funeral at St Mary's Church, Hitchin, on Tuesday.
Joe, 16, of Old Hale Way, Hitchin, died earlier this month after a 14-month battle fighting two types of leukaemia.
The popular youngster, a pupil at Priory School, gained tremendous admiration for his brave battle against his illness. Last year he underwent a bone marrow transplant and he seemed to have beaten the disease but three weeks ago the leukaemia returned.
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Mourners filled every seat in the church while many members of the public who had read of Joe's courage in The Comet stood in silent tribute outside in the streets as the hearse carrying his coffin arrived.
Inside St Mary's, teenagers from Year 11 at Priory School where Joe was an outstanding student, and family and friends were united in their grief with tears flowing throughout the hour-long service conducted by the Rev Michael Roden and the Rev Jane Mainwaring.
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Joe's mother Sue, watched by husband Dave and daughters Jess, Joe's twin, and Ellie, also showed great courage fighting through her emotions saying: "He was a busy, busy boy with so many plans.
"At home his name was Felix, a name he was given after skidding on the cat food in the kitchen.
"So far we have had 214 sympathy cards from people who have read about Joe which is testament to the high regard they felt for him.
"He was inspiring and never complained. He was an absolute star who touched the hearts of so many people over his 16 years."
Joe's sisters also made an emotional farewell to their brother with Ellie finishing with the words: "I look into the night sky and think of you as the brightest star. Sweet dreams, Joe."
Close school friend Jack Bottesch put the feelings of his Priory colleagues in perspective saying: "Nobody will forget Joe's smile. He had a tremendous inner strength to try and beat his disease. In the final stages of the illness he still tried to have fun.
"He touched so many people's lives and I say to all his friends on your 18th birthdays, when you are old enough to drink, raise your glass in a toast to Joe."
Head of Year 11 Trevor Wilson spoke of Joe's last days and visiting him at home.
"After the dreadful diagnosis that leukaemia cells had been found in his bone marrow, Joe sat calmly with me on the settee, after eating his bacon sandwich, and, with his usual smile, discussed his wish list for the next two weeks.
"On Friday, March 16 (the day Joe died) I visited Joe in his bedroom and we were all aware there was not much time left. I discussed Joe's design folder with his parents.
"As I reached and said goodbye his right eye partly opened and I knew Joe had heard everything we had said."