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Tuesday, August 17, 1999 Published at 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK


Mourners remember Helen Rollason

Helen Rollason's coffin is carried into church

Friends, family and colleagues of the BBC sports presenter Helen Rollason have been paying their respects to her at a thanksgiving service.

Ms Rollason died last week from cancer at the age of 43, following a two-year, public battle against the disease.

[ image: Helen Rollason was the BBC's first woman sports presenter]
Helen Rollason was the BBC's first woman sports presenter
Her funeral and cremation, held on Tuesday morning, were private family occasions.

A memorial service was held at a church near her home in Shenfield, Essex.

Friends from the worlds of sport and broadcasting attended the memorial service, including BBC colleagues Steve Rider, Sue Barker, Gary Lineker, Huw Edwards, Nicholas Witchell and David Coleman, and ITV Sport's Des Lynam and Bob Wilson.

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell: "Not a day of mourning but a day to give thanks for her life"
The congregation also included former athletes Roger Black and Sally Gunnell and racehorse trainer Jenny Pitman.

BBC sports presenter Rob Bonnet praised Ms Rollason's courage in the face of cancer.

[ image: BBC Wimbledon presenter Sue Barker was among the mourners]
BBC Wimbledon presenter Sue Barker was among the mourners
He said: "To be told you have a matter of months to live might make cowards of us all.

"Bitterness, self-defeat and pity might cause us to close our lives down, but that wasn't Helen Rollason's way."

The BBC's Peter Hunt: "Helen wanted people to smile"
Conducted by the Reverend Stephen Henwood of St Francis Hospice, Havering, Essex, the service contained moving tributes as well touches of humour, joyful hymns and thanks for her life.

He said Ms Rollason had not wanted the service to be morbid.

No flowers

Ms Rollason, who was the first woman to present BBC Sport's flagship Grandstand programme, was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and colon in 1997.

[ image: Helen's daughter Nikki with her father John]
Helen's daughter Nikki with her father John
Although given only a few months to live, she astonished doctors with her lengthy battle against the disease.

She also continued to work, most recently on the Six O'Clock News, and went to Buckingham Palace in a wheelchair to collect her MBE last month.

Before her death, Ms Rollason helped to raise £5m for a care clinic at the hospital where she was treated.

Her family requested that no flowers be sent to her funeral, but that instead donations be given to the Helen Rollason Cancer Care Centre Appeal at Room 40, Cancer Centre, North Middlesex Hospital, Sterling Way, Edmonton, London N18 1QZ.

Ms Rollason leaves one daughter, Nikki, aged 16.

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