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Friends, family members and strangers moved by the tragic death of Alicia Ross came together Friday to remember the slain 25-year-old as a bright, bubbly and generous person with the power to touch the lives of nearly everyone she met.

More than 500 people jammed into a Toronto synagogue to show their sympathy and lend moral support as Ms. Ross's mother Sharon Fortis tearfully described a little girl who grew into a loving, caring and compassionate daughter.

"She was an adorable baby, a precocious toddler, a blossoming preteen and a terrible, terrible teenager," Ms. Fortis said during a poignant and emotional eulogy that was marked with equal parts humour and tears.

"Goodnight, our love, our dove."

Ms. Ross's remains were discovered in two wooded areas northeast of the city late last month, five weeks after she vanished Aug. 17 from outside the home she shared with her family in the north Toronto suburb of Markham, Ont.

Daniel Sylvester, a 31-year-old next-door neighbour who surrendered to police Sept. 21, faces a charge of second-degree murder.

The diminutive Ms. Fortis reminisced about how Ms. Ross loved the outdoors, strumming her guitar and watching the popular reality TV show The Amazing Race with her mom, "always saying, 'We could do that."'

She also spoke of the impression Ms. Ross left with people during a life she described as brief but full, citing as an example the time her daughter helped to encourage a grateful co-worker who was struggling through a bout of depression.

Ms. Fortis thanked Ms. Ross's friends - "pillars of strength," she called them - as well as the media, the community and York Region police, whom she referred to as her "Linus blanket throughout this ordeal" for their help during the search for her missing daughter.

In the weeks after Ms. Ross's disappearance, Ms. Fortis continued to scour her leafy, affluent neighbourhood long after scores of volunteers, who joined what became the largest investigation of a missing persons case in Ontario in more than 20 years, had gone home.

It wasn't until Mr. Sylvester contacted police that Ms. Ross's body was recovered from wooded areas in central Ontario - Manilla, a cottage-country community north east of Toronto, and Coboconk, where the Sylvester family kept a weekend retreat.

Mr. Sylvester is set to appear in court Oct. 26 in Newmarket, Ont., via video remand.

During the service, Ms. Ross's brothers and sisters lamented a life snuffed out prematurely, but also remembered her as a constant source of silliness, stubbornness, "love and more love."

"I know that you're up there with Daddy," said younger brother Adam, a reference to their deceased father, Marvin.

The traditional Jewish service was attended by a mix of young and old, the devout and those who simply wanted to pay their respects.

"Alicia Ross unified the Jewish and general community and brought us together as one," said Rabbi Howard Morrison.

"May we all strive to keep that sense of oneness."

Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, agreed that Ross's death brought Toronto closer together as a community, but at a tragic price.

"All of us have to go home today and hug our children a little bit more closely," he said after the service.

York Region police Chief Armand La Barge, who also attended the funeral, applauded Ms. Fortis's matriarchal strength and extended his condolences to her family.

Shayna Yolleck, who used to play at the same tennis club as Fortis, said she felt compelled to attend as a mother of two children.

"My heartfelt condolences for family and friends . . . and for all the mothers who can hardly put themselves in that position," said Yolleck, whose eyes welled up with tears as she left the Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue.

"Sharon always said that Alicia was a gift to her. I really believe that Sharon was a gift to Alicia as well."

Ms. Ross's body was taken to a cemetery north of Toronto, marking the beginning of shiva, a seven-day period of mourning.