She was the sweetheart of British athletics - but to Sheffield comic Bobby Knutt she was the golden girl who was all his own.
Yesterday the grief was etched on his face as the 67-year-old led more than 200 mourners in bidding a tearful farewell to his adored wife of 26 years, Donna Hartley-Wass MBE.
Family and friends gathered at pretty Holy Trinity Church in Wentworth, Rotherham, for the funeral of the 58-year-old former sprinter once hailed as the golden girl of British athletics.
The sun shone as the hearse arrived bedecked with bouquets and two red and white floral tributes, one spelling Donna’s name, the other making up the word Friend.
It was followed by cars full of mourners, who included comedian Bernie Clifton.
Donna’s friends each held a single red rose.
One card read: “Dear Donna, a very special young lady, kind, generous and loving. We thank you for being in our lives.”
Another said: “You will be loved and missed forever my darling friend. RIP.”
The order of service - ‘In thanksgiving for the life of Donna Hartley-Wass MBE’ - featured a photo of Donna in an ivory and black dress.
Afterwards Bobby, dressed in a charcoal grey suit and yellow tie, wiped his eyes with tissue as he led mourners out of the church and into the churchyard for a blessing and committal.
During her glittering track career Donna, who competed under her maiden name Donna Murray, won double gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada, in the individual 400m and 4x400m relay.
She was made an MBE by the Queen in 1979 before going on to win bronze at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow for her part in the 4x400m relay.
Following her retirement from running she became a gym owner and body builder, and was crowned the sport’s Miss Great Britain.
Her first marriage was to fellow athlete Bill Hartley, before she met Bobby - real surname Wass - at Butlins in 1984.
Bobby, famous for his roles in Coronation Street, Last of the Summer Wine and as Albert Dingle in Emmerdale, said: “We were married 26 years and we never had a row or cross word.
“She was the great love of my life. She was the kindest person in the world. Everybody loved her and nobody had a bad word to say about her. She was an absolute princess.”
He said the day they got together was ‘one of the happiest of my life’, adding: “Although they’re all pretty happy when Donna’s about.”
Donna died unexpectedly while sunbathing in the back garden of the couple’s Barnsley home last week.