Much-loved New Zealand actress Sophia Hawthorne was farewelled today at a moving ceremony at Auckland's St Matthew-In-The-City.

The funeral, which saw mourners filling the church, was attended by stars of the city's stage and screen communities including actors Sara Wiseman, Craig Hall, Sia Trokenheim, Michael Hurst, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Toni Potter, Stephen Lovett and former CEO and Chairman of South Pacific pictures, John Barnett. Along with friends and extended family, they gathered in force to support her grieving parents, actors Raymond and Elizabeth Hawthorne and sister Emmeline.

All three paid tribute to their daughter and sister, sharing memories of a beautiful, kind, sweet-natured and deeply-caring soul born with breath-taking talent. Mr Hawthorne recalled taking Sophia to see the musical Annie when she was a small girl and how she was "entranced". Arriving home, they put on the soundtrack and Sophia sung The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow in a voice bigger than the singer on the album. He realised then Sophia was destined to become a performer.

"Her voice was to be part of her destiny."


Her godmother, Linda Cartwright, described Sophia as "a beguiling mixture of strength and vulnerability" with a mischievous streak, while Auckland Theatre Company artistic director Colin McColl talked of Sophia's ferocious talent and ability to take on difficult and emotionally-demanding rolls.

Mr McColl also shared more personal recollections, recounting how when his own son, Willy, was terminally ill, Sophia cooked for him - "she was a very good cook" - and amused him with industry gossip and jokes. The two acted together and Willy had been like a big brother to Sophia, offering her advice about her sometimes-turbulent love life.

He talked of her impeccable sense of style - "she could dress herself exquisitely for tuppence in clothes from the op shops" - but also the need to recognise the more complex aspects of her personality. Turning to Sophia's battle with depression, McColl spoke of the need for those in the arts and entertainment industry to recognise the struggles a number of its insiders have.

"We have now lost three in a very short space of time and we stand here and we wonder, 'who will be next?"'

Mr McColl urged the formation of some sort of affordable counselling service, saying those in the public eye often found it difficult to get help through the usual channels, while others struggled to afford them.

In a heartfelt tribute, Sophia's younger sister, Emmeline, reiterated Mr McColl's sentiments and talked of the need to work toward creating a more accepting and tolerant world.

She joined with her parents to once again thank family, friends and colleagues for their unwavering support: "The power of your loving thoughts and prayers have sustained us at this time," they wrote on the service programme. "Please keep us in your hearts and in your thoughts."

Sophia starred in 16 Auckland Theatre Company productions, spanning more than 20 years. In 1994, she starred as Nina in The Seagull, making her ATC debut. Most recently, she starred as Miss Adelaide in Guys & Dolls, opposite Shane Cortese.

She made the move into films in When Love Comes and Savage Honeymoon and had also been twice nominated for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her role in the series Insider's Guide to Happiness.

More recently, Sophia had graduated from Unitec's Early Childhood Teaching degree programme and was due to start work in a preschool.

In lieu of flowers, Mr and Mrs Hawthorne have also asked people to consider a donation to The Mental Health Foundation.

Where to get help:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youth services: (06) 3555 906
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
The Word
Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.