A PARTY to celebrate the life of Denisa Perinova was held in the cafe where she worked.
Friends and colleagues of the 21-year-old Czechoslovakian waitress, who died in a cycling accident in Stonor last month, gathered at Bloc Brazilian café in Market Place on Saturday evening.
A picture slideshow of Miss Perinova was displayed on a screen, while guests were able to pay their tributes by contributing to a shrine and writing messages in a condolence book.
Money raised by donations was used to provide food and drink at the party.
Oliver Gervaise-Jones, who owns the cafe with his father David, said her death was “beyond devastation” but praised the heartfelt response from the public.
“The reaction has been astounding,” he said. “It’s moving how compassionate people have been with their understanding and the support offered.
“Money doesn’t mean anything in reality of losing a life but there have been incredibly generous offers of condolences and donations.
“To take the very number of people at the funeral, considering they travelled from Henley to travel to the Czech Republic, is tantamount to what a great person she was.
“Seeing the emotion evoked in people who barely knew her makes the whole situation is very sad. She was a 21-year-old girl with so much going for her.
“Devastation doesn’t begin to convey the feeling I’ve witnessed in people. But it has instilled a great faith in humanity in the compassion everyone has shown.”
Miss Perinova was one of five waitresses at the cafe after moving from the Czech Republic two years ago.
She suffered head injuries and broken ribs in the crash, which happened as she was cycling with her boyfriend Ben Pontin along the B480.
Police said her bicycle collided with his machine, causing her to fall into the path of a Mini which was overtaking cyclists on the other side of the road.
Miss Perinova was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital before being transferred to the intensive unit at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford .
Following the accident, the cafe collected more than £700 in donations with a view to help her through her recuperation period.
Mr Gervaise-Jones said: “Even the most optimistic view in the situation was that she realistically wouldn’t have been able to work for at least six months to a year so the idea was to try raise some funds to help her through that period of time.
“Subsequent to her death, we found out the transport of her coffin was going to cost about £3,500 and we thought it might be nice to use the money to contribute towards that and alleviate the financial burden on the family.
“Jirka, her father, visited us on the Tuesday after her death before flying back to Prague and he wouldn’t accept the money.
“He didn’t want it to be used for transporting the coffin. He was very flattered, honoured and blown away by the generosity by everyone but he wanted us to use it on the celebration of her life.”
Some of the money is also going to be used to fund a plaque to be placed on a bench in the town.
Mr Gervaise-Jones added: “It was a lovely sunny and people were wearing their summer attire and it’s an opportunity for us to get together in the community and raise a glass to Denisa and celebrate her life.”
Mr Gervaise-Jones’ father said it had been a “pleasure” to work with Miss Perinova, who was one of five waitresses, for the past two years.
“The amount of times men and women would come up to me and say ‘what is your employment policy because these girls are fantastic and so lovely’,” he said.
“All the guys would come out of here thinking she’s beautiful, which she was but both inside and out. She was a really lovely girl and everybody misses her.”
Colleague Jane Kirby, of Noble Road, Henley, said: “We were all a big family at the cafe and Denisa would come in smiling everyday.
“She was fun-loving and easy-going. She got along with all the customers and never moaned about anything.”
Mihaela Mikai, of Milton Close, added: “She had moved countries and was so mature. Denisa was an amazing colleague and friend who knew how to live her life.”