Mourners came from as far away as London to attend a memorial service to celebrate the life of a much-loved cat which made Worthing crematorium its home.
Ashley had spent most of his 16 years as an outdoor cat at the Crematorium, run by Worthing Borough Council.
Staff gave up their own time to put on the memorial service on Saturday, which was described by those who went along as ‘unique and moving’.
Minister Sarah Jane Boden led the service, which included hymns, prayers and songs from the musical Aristocats.
Many of the 40 attendees shared how Ashley had been a comforting presence to them following a bereavement.
Liz Davies, whose parents were buried at the site, and who travelled down from London specially to attend the service, said: “The whole event was touched with kindness and warmth.
“Reflecting on Ashley and his life, I think this innocent animal has achieved what humans strive to do and had brought together a diverse group of people.
“No doubt he helped and comforted many others who were not there on Saturday.”
Many people who could not attend the service shared fond memories of Ashley online.
The memorial was attended by the Deputy Mayor of Worthing, Councillor Hazel Thorpe, along with Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Digital and Environmental Services, Councillor Edward Crouch.
Wesley Media provided the audio visual tribute free of charge.
A permanent memorial to Ashley will be created in the Crematorium reception, where his urn will be kept alongside a photo for visitors to see, a spokesman from Worthing Borough Council confirmed.
There are also plans to install a plaque on a memorial bench in the Crematorium grounds.
Donations made in Ashley’s memory will go to St Barnabas House, a hospice based in Worthing.
Worthing Borough Council has undertaken to match the £100 of donations received from local residents, the spokesman said.
Crematorium staff plan to put on more services in the future to enable more visitors to meet others who are in similar circumstances, including a Christmas service which will take place on the 15th of December.