Later released at his graveside, the balloons offered a poignant and symbolic gesture of the child’s early departure.
A blue framed picture of the 11-month-old rested on his tiny white coffin as mourners gathered to bid a final farewell.
Chief concelebrant Fr Seán O’Driscoll told mourners at the Church of the Resurrection, Farranree, Cork, that Anthony was a gift from God given on loan for “just a short time”.
He said the family had been “plunged into darkness” and offered prayers they might find hope through the support of the community.
“Our hope is that you will find peace in your hearts to get you through this pain and we pray that St Anthony will be there to support you on that journey,” he said.
A pair of Anthony’s tiny baby shoes, his bottle and a Lourdes candle were among the gifts brought to the altar.
“Through the love that was given to baby Anthony, he gave love back and the most beautiful, wonderful memories. This morning as the Christian community of Farranree, we gather to surround the Williams and Daly families with a sense of hope, because they desperately need it after being plunged into this awful darkness,” said Fr O’Driscoll.
The child’s father Freddy Williams read out a poem dedicated to Anthony’s memory, recalling smiles and laughs that captured hearts during his son’s short life.
He spoke of the families’ tears of joy at Anthony’s arrival 11 months ago.
“We were so happy but we still cried, we watched him grow bigger and bigger each day, smiling and laughing, things always got better.
Then one day not long ago, it was destined that he was to go,” Freddy said.
He spoke of the night his son passed away and said there are no words to describe the families’ pain.
“His last breath, his last look, the very last beat his heart ever took... God called your name as he took you to heaven, he took your soul, he took your body, the only thing left was everything in your memory.”
Baby Anthony is among the stars now, Freddy told mourners, before thanking friends, neighbours, gardaí, paramedics and extended family for their support.
The child slipped beneath the water and drowned during bath time at his home in Onslow Gardens, Parklands, on Monday night. His mother had left the room seconds earlier to fetch a towel.
“Thanks for all the help and support over the past few days. We will always hold Anthony in our prayers,” said Mr Williams.
Anthony was laid to rest at St Catherine’s cemetery, Kilcully.