HUNDREDS of family and friends paid an emotional farewell to Swindon matriarch Maria Vitale at her funeral, which took place at Holy Rood Catholic Church yesterday.

Around 400 people attended the service taken by Rev Canon John Cunningham. Maria, 88, died at Great Western Hospital on April 8 after battling through several strokes in her later years. She left 11 daughters, 28 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren, as well as a sister, two brothers and nieces and nephews.

Elton John’s song Sacrifice was played at the start of the service with the mourners then singing the hymn Morning Has Broken and reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

During the ceremony, Maria’s loved ones described her as the queen of her family praising her caring nature, warmth and wicked sense of humour.

Grandson Cristian Perugino said: “The turnout today has been unbelivable and the family wants to thank everyone who came. We are so overwhelmed and we want to let everyone know just how touched we all are.

“The service was a great tribute to a wonderful woman who cared deeply for her family and friends.”

Family friend Danielle Angliss sang Ave Maria during the service and Maria’s grandchildren shared their favourite memories of their grandmother.

Maria’s coffin was carried out of the Groundwell Road church to the song It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye.

Grandson Dom Brizzi said: “It was a beautiful service. It was very much a celebration of her life and everything that made her special, rather than a ceremony filled with doom and gloom. We are so glad that so many people were able to attend and pay their respects.”

Maria was born in Italy, moving to Swindon with her late husband and childhood sweetheart, Nicola Vitale, in 1944. She became a popular member of the Italian community and always welcomed visitors to her Curtis Street home.

Maria’s eldest child and only son, Pasquale, died following a farming accident in Eastleach at the age of only seven, and her funeral was on the same day as the anniversary of his death.

She was buried at Whitworth Road Cemetery and a wake was held at her home in Curtis Street.

Maria’s family want to thank all staff at GWH’s Falcon Ward for their medical support and anyone wishing to leave a donation in Maria’s memory is asked to give to the Stroke Association.