TRIBUTES have been paid to a “fantastic mum and brilliant friend” who has passed away following a long battle with cancer.

Helen Sutton, 48, co-owner of Circles Cafe on Lendal Bridge, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and fought the illness with dignity and bravery, her husband Tim and daughters Emma, 19, and Louise, 17, said.

Mrs Sutton’s funeral is being held at York Crematorium today. She passed away in St Leonard’s Hospice on November 16.

Mr Sutton, of Dunnington, said: “Helen had a knack of knowing how to talk and empathise with all; she never had a bad word to say about anyone.

“She had an unyielding zest for life and had no inhibitions when it came to enjoying life.”

Moving to York from Goole as a youngster, Mrs Sutton spent nearly all of her life in York, managing Crabtree & Evelyn, working in the Ebor pub in Bishopthorpe, and in the waiting list and endoscopy departments of York Hospital before she and her friend Alison Boddy took over the café in Lendal Bridge last year.

She learned her breast cancer was terminal days before last Christmas, Mr Sutton said.

In a speech written to be read at her funeral, Emma said: “I will never forget what a fantastic mum, brilliant best friend she was and always will be. Mum always made the best of every situation, whether it would be caring for her family, getting lost everywhere she went, pretending she knew what she was doing in the café with Alison, and most of all battling through all her treatment and constant bad news.

“She always told me how proud she was of me and Louise but now we realise how truly proud we are of her.”

Her sister, Louise, said: “I know no matter what, you will always be with me, in my heart. No matter what happened in your life you kept strong, you kept laughing and kept smiling. Your love is infectious. You are an amazing, kind, funny, beautiful mum. You’re one of a kind - everything I could have asked for and more. There are no words to describe how much I love you and how much I miss you already.”

Mrs Sutton was very close to her family, especially to her late brother, Philip, and his, wife, Carmen, and their daughters, Carmen and Ana.

Her sister-in-law has described her as a “fantastic woman, with a great and admirable enthusiasm for life”.

Over the last few years the family have enjoyed numerous holidays together around the world.

Their last holiday was to Jamaica and she asked for Bob Marley to be played while she was at the hospice, Mr Sutton said.