As Victoria Kilpatrick looked over the crowd of hundreds at the Epic Church in Sayreville, New Jersey on Wednesday night, she saw a community full of empathy. A community whose resolve had been tested. A community in mourning.

Kilpatrick, the mayor of Sayreville, leads a community struggling to make sense of the shooting death of borough Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour exactly one week earlier. Kilpatrick said she found strength in a memory.

“When I think of ‘Sayreville Strong,’ the image that stands clear to me is a smile that can be seen from miles and miles away. That smile brings us here today. Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour’s smile,” Kilpatrick said. “It represented an invitation — an invitation to be seen, to be heard, to be supported.”

Dwumfour brought authenticity to her public service, Kilpatrick said. She engaged young people. Some felt represented for the first time meeting Dwumfour, the borough’s first Black councilwoman, Kilpatrick said.

“She forever was defining herself and making her place in our history. In Sayreville’s history, in our state’s history, in our country’s history and in the world,” Kilpatrick said.

Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfor, seen here in an image at her memorial service Feb. 8, was 30 when she was shot and killed outside her borough home.

Dwumfour’s slaying was felt far beyond the borough. The Republican’s death drew national attention to the community of 45,000 along the Raritan Bay.

Democratic former Gov. Jim Greevey, who once served as mayor of Woodbridge, about 15 minutes north on Route 9, was in the audience. So was Republican Jack Ciattarelli, who challenged Phil Murphy for the governorship in 2021, and former Assemblyman and longtime Sayreville resident John Wisniewski, a Democrat. Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver both addressed the gathering.

Standing in front of the Epic Church’s gigantic video screens, Oliver said she felt a kinship with Dwumfour, as they’d both attended Weequahic High School in Newark. They’d walked the same halls, known the same neighborhoods. They’d both been drawn to public service.

“And when you want to help people, that comes from a place of God,” Oliver said. “That's where that comes from because that is what, as Christians, we are taught, and she definitely, definitely demonstrated and showed her commitment to a Christian life.”

But among the hardest things for a Christian to accept, Oliver said, is the notion that even horrible losses are part of God’s plan.

“And I'd like to tell Eunice's mother and father, she will be with you every single day,” she said. “Her spirit will be with you every single day. She may not be with you in the flesh, but her spirit will be with you.”

The memorial service for Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour drew hundreds of community members, family members and local dignitaries.

Dwumfour, from a Ghanaian immigrant family, was 30 at the time of her death, and had just started her second year on the council. Loved ones and fellow officials have told Gothamist she was deeply devoted to her Christian faith, remaining involved in a Newark location of the Nigeria-based Champions Royal Assembly.

She was recently married, and left behind a preteen daughter. Her husband, Eze King, who lives in Nigeria, posted to Facebook the same day of the service that he misses her, and wishes “justice for you.”

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office has said little so far about the investigation — only that Dwumfour was found shot multiple times the evening of Feb. 1 in her car, outside of her home in the La Mer complex, in the Parlin section of the borough.

Police say they’re looking for video footage any neighbors may have from the night of the shooting, either from La Mer, or from the Harbour Club complex across the Garden State Parkway. Neighbors told Gothamist they heard several gunshots before seeing Dwumfour’s vehicle crash into two parked cars.

Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone said for the first time Wednesday afternoon, hours before the service, that there wasn’t an ongoing threat to the community, though she didn’t say how she knew. She defended her decision to remain largely silent, and to file a since-withdrawn lawsuit to keep media from getting access to records in the investigation. That suit had cited, in part, a desire to protect Dwumfour’s family members’ privacy.

But the focus for those Wednesday night wasn’t how Dwumfour died. It was how she lived.

Dwumfour was a 2017 graduate of William Paterson University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in women's and gender studies with a minor in social justice, school officials have said. She’d previously worked as an EMT. Kilpatrick said that’s because “helping people is what drove her.”

Pebbles Grubb sings Amazing Grace at the Epic Church in Sayreville Feb. 8, during a memorial for borough Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour.

Dwumfour ran for the council in 2021 alongside fellow Republican and neighbor Christian Onuoha. Together they unseated a pair of Democrats.

At the service Wednesday night, Onuoha recalled how important it was to the newly elected councilwoman that she continue community work she’d started on the borough’s Human Relations Commission, which focuses on issues of diversity. She’d been adamant, even though it meant scrambling to figure out how she could hold dual roles on the governing body and commission.

“She was very militant to the core. This is the kind of person we're discussing here. The best way to describe her is very selfless,” Onuoha said. “She could damn any consequence, any glory. That was just the heart of her, ready to serve till the end.”

He said he’d been proud to know her through the fellowship they both belonged to, and described the privilege of seeing her “discovering her calling as a pastor.”

Onuoha had been the local Republican Party’s recruiting chair, he said. But convincing Dwumfour to consider elected office wasn’t easy. The Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol was still a fresh memory when they ran. But Dwumfour trusted him, Onuoha said, and she rose to the challenge.

“It was a legacy of a passion for public service, whether it was from the EMT standpoint or community service standpoint or just the way she wanted every human relation, every human interaction to improve our safety, to make us feel safer, to make us feel better, to make us feel more confident,” Onuoha said. “That was her passion.”

Flags at government buildings were flown at half-staff Wednesday in Dwumfour’s memory, under an order from Murphy.