EVERYONE said it was the sort of service that Margaret Goumas would have loved.
More than 400 people packed into the Holy Apostles Church in Steel Street, Hamilton, for the sonorous formality of a Greek Orthodox funeral led by Father Nicholas Scordilis, the bells of his incense censer chiming as he fanned the smoke across the candle-lit church sanctuary.
Most of the service was in Greek and the eight tones of the Byzantine chants were sung by chanters from St Andrews Greek Orthodox Theological College in Redfern.
Many of the mourners were members of Newcastle’s close-knit Greek community, but there were also cinema industry identities, charity representatives and others who simply wished to pay their respects to a larger-than-life character.
Mrs Goumas, who ran the Showcase and other cinemas in Newcastle with her husband Theo, died last Thursday aged 75.
Father Nicholas told the assembled mourners that the head of the Orthodox church in Australia, Archbishop Stylianos Harkianakis, was unable to come to the funeral, having just returned from an extensive pastoral visit to northern Australia.
He said Archbishop Stylianos would never forget the warmth he received at the Goumas household when he came to Newcastle.
The main eulogy was given by former Newcastle lord mayor John McNaughton, who recounted the years Mrs Goumas spent on the council in the days when everyone was an alderman regardless of gender.
He told how Mrs Goumas and the late Don Geddes had overcome their antagonisms to reconcile over their mutual determination to wage war on smoking.
‘‘I said we’d never achieve it but Margaret was absolutely positive and the national attitudes we have now about not smoking were spear-headed in Newcastle,’’ Mr McNaughton said.
He recalled her support for the city’s first skateboarding ramp at South Newcastle beach. The roller blades she was photographed in for a Newcastle Herald photo were not simply props, because she had been an expert skater who taught skating to the blind.
Mr McNaughton said Mrs Goumas worked tirelessly behind the scenes with various charities that few people outside of those involved knew about.
The Goumases had no children, giving a special place to nieces and nephews.
Mrs Anne Dean, a daughter of Mrs Goumas’s sister Jean, stood with her daughter Melinda Wilson to speak of ‘‘an auntie who was like a big sister’’.
Ms Wilson spoke of ‘‘great Aunt Margaret, a beautiful soul who loved life and touched everyone’’.
The service closed to Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor before the City of Newcastle RSL Pipe Band farewelled the hearse on its way to Sandgate cemetery.