Staff and adults at NEAS paid an emotional tribute to support worker Tracey Donnelly as her funeral cortege passed the residential homes where she worked in Sunderland.

Balloons, banners, and posters, thanking Tracey for her dedication to the charity, were displayed outside The Court, Inverthorne, and Moorpine residential homes.

Staff and service-users, either standing in Covid-safe bubbles, or socially distancing, lined the road outside as the cortege paused in silent tribute on the way to Sunderland Crematorium.

Then, the society’s registered care manager, Michael Ross, who worked closely with Tracey, stepped forward to lay a bunch of roses on the hearse carrying her coffin.

Michael said:

We are a very close-knit team, and we are all devastated at losing Tracey, but everyone wanted to play their part in making sure she was given the farewell she deserved.

She was a shining star and we wanted to make that the theme today. Every year, the charity holds its Star Awards and, although we couldn’t give her a Star Award this year, we wanted to make sure she got a star send-off.

She had a real gift for arts and crafts, and she loved to involve the service-users in making things. She gave them a voice, so they have all played a part – no matter how small – in making the display of tributes for today.

Red paper hearts, made in the “three houses”, were thrown in the air as the cortege moved on. Staff and adults then went inside to for a buffet to celebrate her life.

Tracey Donnelly

NEAS chief executive John Phillipson said:

We wanted to show our love and respect for Tracey, despite these constrained times, and the team have done her proud.

She was a truly great colleague, and a very special person, and there is a real sense that we have lost one of our own.

Tracey, who was born and raised in Edinburgh, joined the charity five years ago, and worked principally at The Close as a support worker.

She married her husband, George, in 2012 and the couple lived in Ryhope. She leaves four sons – Steve, Christopher, Ben and Jack. She also had three step-children – Hayley, Jonathan, and Emma – and eight grandchildren.

Tracey, 53, was the third much-loved member of the charity’s staff to die from Covid-19, following Margie Blyth and Sue Gargett. However, there is no evidence that any of them caught the virus while working at NEAS.