There was standing room only at St Mary’s Church in Ponteland on Sunday as the service of celebration for Sally Allan was held.
Tributes were paid by husband Gordon, sons Clive and David and daughter Claire and other family members and friends and work colleagues also spoke of how friendly and caring she was.
Those in attendance were told of how she got involved with groups and clubs in the community both growing up, she moved with her family to Ponteland at the age of six, and as an adult.
Mrs Allan had a passion for supporting children and young adults with learning disabilities and she helped out at a Gateway Club.
In addition, she and Gordon ran Castle Morpeth Enterprises. This charity gave adults with learning disabilities from Ponteland and surrounding areas the opportunity to undertake work-based training at Northumberland National Park, Border Forest Park and Kielder Forest.
The 59-year-old left her home in Errington Road, Darras Hall, in the early hours of Boxing Day.
CCTV footage of the last confirmed sighting of her shows her walking alongside the River Tyne near the Copthorne Hotel in Newcastle at around 6am the same day. The camera loses sight of her as she approaches the Swing Bridge.
Hundreds of people in the Ponteland area and beyond took part in the search for her and thousands spread the word that she was missing on social media.
Last month, the family admitted they had lost hope of her being found alive and on January 10, hundreds of people joined the family for a poignant ceremony to lay flowers at the Quayside.
On Wednesday, February 3, a body was found by Northumbria Police’s marine unit in water near the riverside in Jarrow. Police later confirmed that it was Mrs Allan.
The service included readings and the hymns All Things Bright And Beautiful, This Little Light of Mine and Kumbaya. In addition, Waters of Tyne was sung by the Ad Murum choir from Heddon-on-the-Wall, of which Sally was a member.
Gordon Allan said: “Because we had worked so closely with the police with the investigation, we had already accepted that Sally’s body was in the river.
“When we were told the body that was found near the riverside in Jarrow was her’s, it was a bittersweet moment.
“There was sadness that what we had thought had been confirmed, but also relief because it brings us some closure and we are now able to plan a proper funeral.
“We had already planned the memorial service for the Sunday and we thought it was still right to go ahead with it as all the arrangements had been made.
“The point of the service was to celebrate Sally’s life and I would say that over 350 people were in attendance – there was standing room only.
“Sally always greeted people with a smile and at the service, people talked about her warm and friendly smile.
“When I went out with her in Ponteland, she would often stop to have a friendly chat with somebody, including people she had only met a few times before. She enjoyed face-to-face conversation and took the time to listen to what others had to say.
“It was nice to see friends of our sons and daughter at the service. Those I spoke to said Sally was very welcoming to them and I thanked them for their efforts on social media in the search for her.
“Those who came along were invited to join us for tea and cakes at the Memorial Hall afterwards. Friends insisted that they would make the cakes and we ended up with around 50 of them.
“The police said they had never known such a public response for trying to find a missing person.
“The messages of love and support since she went missing and since her body was found have given us great strength. These include the ones posted on the internet, such as the pictures displayed on Facebook of people lighting candles for Sally.”
A private funeral for Mrs Allan is set to take place next week.
There was only a period of eight years from 1962 when Mrs Allan did not live in Ponteland as she and Mr Allan, who met at a student disco in Sheffield in 1975, lived in a few different places in the south of England in the years after they got married.
She was a member of the girl guides in Ponteland as a youngster, she was a popular secretary of the swimming club for many years and she was also a member of the badminton club.
As well as her efforts to help people with learning disabilities, she was a learner support assistant at Gateshead College. She retired from this role last October.
It involved supporting adult students who needed further assistance with their studies.
Mrs Allan enjoyed the outdoors and with Mr Allan, some of their many walks covered a coastal area stretching from Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders to Easington in County Durham and the Hadrian’s Wall footpath area. They also did all of the St Oswald’s Way route.
The couple really enjoyed their visits to the west coast of Scotland and closer to home, one of her favourite walks was through the Bluebell Woods in Morpeth.
The Allan family have been raising awareness of mental health issues and money for national charity Mind – more than £15,000 has been donated so far – half of all funds raised will be used by the Tyneside and Northumberland branch.
They attended the Newcastle Mental Health Day on Saturday.
Mr Allan said: “We as a family would like to encourage people to help end the stigma associated with mental health and the funds being raised for Mind is a positive legacy for Sally.
“We’re supporting campaigns and programmes that aim to get people talking about their mental health problems.
“Had Sally been able to talk about the issues she was going through with her family or a close friend, she may have been able to get the treatment which would have meant she would still be here today.”
For more information and to make a donation, visit www.justgiving.com/Sally-Allan1956