CHILDREN, mums, and teachers spoke glowingly of their unselfish, kind and loving friend Linda Sturgess as she was laid to rest.

The 61 year-old teaching assistant at St Peter's Primary School in Prospect Road, Marlow, died on December 27 after a short, sudden illness.

About 150 mourners packed into Amersham Crematorium last week to bid farewell to Mrs Sturgess, while schoolchildren and parents held a remembrance event at the school.

Balloons, with messages attached from the youngsters, were released into the skies on Tuesday. Tulip bulbs were planted in a new remembrance garden on school grounds.

The events were organised by mothers Claire Stevens and Michelle Judkins.

Mum-of-two Mrs Stevens, of The Croft, Marlow, said: "We wanted to hold this event as something to remember her by for the children.

"It was quite subdued when we read a prayer, the children were quiet but I think it was the best way for them.

"She was such a loving and caring person. Everyone has been talking about her kindness and how she was a very unselfish person and really part of the community.

"She was a really well loved character."

Her son Marley, six, was among year two pupils who helped with the planting.

Mrs Stevens said the news had come out of the blue.

She said: "It was absolute, total shock, it was a tragedy. Over the Christmas period it was a very raw time, it was horrible."

A statement released by St Peter's headteacher Amanda McCluskey on behalf of the school read: "Linda was a highly respected and valued member of our school community who had worked with us for 15 years as a classroom assistant and with children who had specific needs.

"Linda will be greatly missed for her caring and loyal nature towards both the children and her colleagues."