The Sopranos creator David Chase paid a heartwarming tribute to late star James Gandolfini by writing his eulogy in the form of a letter to the tragic actor at his funeral in New York on Thursday (27Jun13).

The executive producer remembered his friend as a man who never lost touch with his inner child as he addressed mourners at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, but admitted it was the sadness behind his eyes which helped him to bring his most famous character, mob boss Tony Soprano, to life on the small screen.

He said, "You were a good boy... A sad boy, amazed and confused. You could see it in your eyes. That's why I think you were such a great actor, because of that boy inside.

"I think your talent is that you can take the immensity of humankind and the universe and shine it right back at us."

Gandolfini's widow, Deborah Lin, the mother of his nine-month-old daughter Lily, also spoke at the service, telling the congregation, "My husband was an honest, kind and loving man. He cared more about others than himself... Thank you for the memories of the beautiful life we spent together. I love you Jim, and I always will. Rest in peace."

A host of stars from the actor's Tv family turned out for the memorial, such as his onscreen wife Edie Falco and daughter Jamie-Lynn Sigler, as well as Steve Buscemi, Steve Schirripa, Lorraine Bracco, Vincent Curatola, Joe Pantoliano, Tony Sirico, Dominic Chianese, Aida Turturro, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore, while other guests included Alec Baldwin and his heavily pregnant wife Hilaria, and Chris Christie, governor of Gandolfini's native New Jersey.

Gandolfini's sisters, Leta and Johanna, his son Michael, 13, and his ex-wife Marcy Wudarski were also in attendance for the 90-minute ceremony, which was led by Reverend James A. Kowalski.

Speaking before the funeral, Sirico expressed his sympathies for Gandolfini's baby girl having to grow up without her father, saying, "He's a great actor and he was a great guy... He's got a new baby. She'll grow up and have to be told who he was by her mum. It's sad."

And actor David Rasche, who appeared alongside Gandolfini in 2009 film In the Loop, added: "He was such a terrific guy and a terrific actor... He was a huge presence, huge... He was kind and loving and generous, but he was a really big presence; he really filled a role."

Gandolfini died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy last Wednesday (19Jun13) at the age of 51.