About 150 people attended the funeral for Shannon Vincel, the 46-year-old breast cancer patient from Missouri who police say was beaten to death Monday night outside a Zion, Illinois, hospital, after receiving treatment.
James Francis, director of Lupton Chapel in St. Louis, where Vincel was laid to rest, tells PEOPLE the occasion was somber as mourners “express[ed] sentiments of how tragic and senseless it was.”
Vincel’s stepfather, Eugene Adam, delivered a eulogy, describing her as a person who “loved people – and people loved her,” Francis says.
Vincel’s family also issued a statement to the Chicago Tribune, writing: “Shannon was an outgoing, bubbly, kind-hearted free spirit. Always up, always smiling. Just wanted to laugh and have fun.”
“She made friends wherever she went,” her family said. “This certainly was the case in the last few months of her life undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She faced cancer head on with a smile and positive attitude. It was her mission to uplift and inspire fellow patients.”
According to the statement, Vincel lived in Springfield, Missouri, and worked as a hairstylist specializing in braids and updos. She had attended Drury University in Springfield.
According to Francis, many friends of Vincel’s traveled the three-plus hours from Springfield to St. Louis for her funeral. “That was very gratifying to the family,” he says.
Matt Pylant, a friend who attended Drury with Vincel, tells PEOPLE Vincel was “a kind person” who accepted him when others ostracized him for being gay.
Pylant wrote on his Facebook page, “Shannon Vincel was my BFF my freshman year of college. When I was ostracized for being gay, Shannon gave everyone the middle finger…. I hope she knows how much she meant to me.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Vincel had traveled to Zion to receive medical care for breast cancer from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. She and another patient were waiting for a hospital shuttle to pick them up from their hospital residence when they were attacked by an unidentified man, Zion police told PEOPLE.
The suspect approached the pair and started hitting Vincel with a blunt object, police said. Vincel sustained severe head trauma and was taken to a local hospital where she died hours later, officials told PEOPLE.
Vincel was not robbed and police say there is no clear motive for the attack. Witnesses described the suspect as a black male wearing dark clothes, police said.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America offered their condolences to the Vincel family and said they have increased their security presence.
Vincel’s death has received national attention. Andrea Radar, of the Susan G. Komen Foundation told PEOPLE, “I think its fair to say that breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is hard enough.
“To go through the roller coaster of feeling well and being treated for this terrible cancer and then to be attacked and die this way, it’s dreadful.”