THE family of an inspirational York woman who died at the age of 27 after a life-long battle with ill health have celebrated her life with a special ceremony in the city.

Sam Race, of Fossway, had the chromosone abnormality Turner’s Syndrome and died after complications following heart surgery in mid-December.

Her funeral was held at St Aelred’s Church earlier this month, but her family have said the ceremony was such a celebration that it felt more like a wedding than a funeral.

Her stepfather, Keith Taylor, said: “It was a very touching day that everyone will remember forever.”

A special Range Rover hearse carried Sam’s coffin, which was printed with photographs of her and pictures of the television and film characters she loved.

The unusual cortege attracted a lot of attention, Keith said.

“We enjoyed the many smiles as we saw the facial expressions of strangers in the street, jaws dropping and double takes as they could not believe what they were seeing.”

Sam’s mother, Helen, said she arranged the service to reflect her daughter’s optimistic character. They played music she loved including Abba’s Dancing Queen – which friends could remember her dancing to at a Christmas party only days before her death – and Thank You For The Music. “It meant a lot to have something that was so personal,” Helen said.

“It was difficult because it had to be about Sam, and we were trying to plan something that she would have wanted rather than what we would have wanted, and that’s not something you discuss with your daughter.”

A collection raised more than £300 for Take Heart, a charity which supports the cardiac unit at Leeds General Infirmary where Sam was treated before her death.

Helen thanked the many friends and family who have supported her through Sam’s death, and the staff at the Co-operative funeral service who helped make her dream for her daughter’s memorial come true.

With many close family members in Ireland, the family held a second memorial service for Sam in Balbriggan, near Dublin, at the weekend.