ALTHOUGH it may have been a dark day, the happy memories of a boy who lit up everyone’s lives will stay with people forever.
Leo Burton was a boy who lived life with a smile on his face, bringing joy with him everywhere he went.
Yesterday, Forton Road in Gosport was a sea of yellow as the eight-year-old’s funeral was held at St John’s Church – with the darkness of the day pierced by the bright colours and a service transformed by a Disney theme.
Leo’s love of Mickey Mouse came to the forefront for the day, as a Disney-themed procession followed a magical horse-drawn carriage to the church – with Mickey, and Elsa from Frozen, in tow.
Inside, the church was decorated with balloons, a Mickey Mouse banner and yellow decorations – Leo’s favourite colour. His coffin was specially designed and was bright yellow, decorated with Mickey Mouse and Baymax from Big Hero 6, carried into the church by Leo’s dad.
What followed was an upbeat service, reminding everyone of Leo’s happy go-lucky nature and his love of singing.
Videos were shown of the St John’s C of E Primary School choir singing the hymn The Lord’s My Shepherd, which was followed by Leo’s favourite song, Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.
Speaking to The News before the service, the vicar, Mother Carrie Thompson, spoke of how Leo was adored by everyone in Gosport.
She said: ‘Leo was a boy well-loved by friends, family and everyone who ever met him.
‘He had this infectious smile and had was happy everywhere he went.
‘There are a lot of Mickey Mouse decorations – he was obsessed with Mickey and Baymax, and the family was keen to reflect that.
‘The family has been really well-supported by everyone in the community; it’s an awful tragedy and we’re all grieving together, but that is that togetherness and that is really important.’
Family friend Jade Blyth says that the service was a fitting tribute to a boy who lived his life with a smile on his face.
She said: ‘It was amazing – Mother Carrie Thompson did a wonderful service and there were so many people there, right down to the lollipop man from St John’s School.
‘We just wanted lots of bright colours and it was a really positive thing – the family made sure it was a really positive celebration so there were lots of balloons and lots of smiles.’
Marie Hind, 36, said: ‘My daughter was in the same year group as Leo at school.
‘The funeral service was everything the family would have wanted – the service was bright and colourful and that was just Leo through and through.
‘It is a very sad day but also a good celebration of his life.
‘I think the community has really pulled together during this heartbreaking time – so many people have come along and everyone has done something for the event.
Lisa Wooton said: ‘Everything Mother Carrie Thompson said was spot on, and music and singing was absolutely fantastic.
‘It couldn’t have been a more fitting send-off for such a lovely boy.
‘The family has been so brave throughout all of this and for the children to stand by their mum and dad at the service was incredible.
‘Leo might have gone and will be missed, but he will never be forgotten.’
For the youngsters living in the area around St John’s Square, a party celebrating Leo’s life was held after the service.
An assortment of food was on offer, as well as bouncy castles provided for the afternoon by Johnny Reilly from the Square Pegs charity.
The icing on the cake was quite literally provided by 12-year-old Shani Stock, who made a two-tier Mickey Mouse cake for everyone.
She said: ‘We got some Mickey Mouse edible paper printed, then made the bottom tier black and the top one red.
‘We put his name round the cake too - I’m really happy with how it turned out.,’
Shani’s mum, Trudy Jackson, 34, said: ‘It went as well as it could have.
‘It was a nice service and was something that Leo would have really liked – it was all right up his street.
‘I’m really proud of Shani for doing something like this in memory of Leo, and it’s amazing to see everyone pull together for a celebration of his life.
‘He would have loved something like this.’