THE family of a young nursery nurse who lost her battle with cancer released 27 red balloons into the sky above Newport as a tribute to her.

Around 35 children and their parents looked on as Jackie Johnson released the balloons – one for every year of her daughter Emma Starr’s life – at Bettws Community Centre on Friday.

Emma, who lived in Bulwark, Chepstow, with her husband Lyndon, 27, who she met eleven years ago, died on January 26, more than a year after she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Mrs Starr was a much-loved member of the community in Bettws where she worked as a flying start nursery nurse in Bettws Health Centre for two years until she became ill.

Mrs Johnson, of Sedbury Lane, Chepstow, said her daughter always wanted to work with children.

“I was a childminder and so Emma was brought up around children and wanted to work with them,” she said.

Emma, a former pupil of Tutshill School, and Wyedean School, worked at the Riverside Nursery, Tutshill, before going to work in Bettws.

“She was a genuinely nice person who had a huge impact on the community she worked in,” added her sister, Mandy Mayo, 50.

“She said the best day of her life was on her wedding day two and a half years ago when she married Lyndon at Wotton-under-Edge,”

she added. Colleague Regina Hurst, a health visitor at the centre, said Mrs Starr was an exceptional nursery nurse.

“She always put others before herself, was caring and always gave her best. She was such an inspiration to us all,” said Mrs Hurst. “Words cannot express how much we are missing Emma,” she added.

Mrs Johnson, Mrs Mayo and Emma’s brother Stephen Johnson, were among the family members to attend the memorial event, organised by local mum Andrea Holyoake.

Mrs Mayo said it was such a tribute to Emma to see the community hold the memorial, which included refreshments donated by local businesses and a fundraising raffle, towards her chosen cause Velindre Cancer Care and towards a permanent memorial to Emma in the community.

The children created a poster for Emma decorated with more than 300 handprints and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as a tribute to Mrs Starr.

Following a short service led by Canon Henry Davies, local councillor Noel Trigg said Mrs Starr was a loving wife, daughter and sister.

“This memorial is our way of remembering Emma’s life and all that she meant to the children here,” he added.

The event has so far raised around £160.