She was "Min," an ambitious, lively and slightly eccentric young woman who had set definite careers goals and made sure she was on track to fulfill them.
She was the "nerve central" among co-workers at the Rosemont office of Department of Social Services, a bushel of "bubbling brown sugar" who cared about her clients who needed assistance who and spent long hours to ensure their needs were met.
This was the way a co-worker described Tanja Brown-O'Neal at her funeral service today.
But mostly, the woman said, Brown-O'Neal was a mother who never tired of her talking about her 4-year-old son, Marcus, and the future together they had plotted.
"That boy was really her life," the friend said at Bethel A.M.E. Church in West Baltimore. "When there wasn't a time she was talking about, she was getting ready to talk about him."
An overflow gathering of mourners -- including scores of DSS workers, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke -- said goodbye to "Min" today, a week after she was killed at the Rosemont center in West Baltimore where she worked as an income-maintenance worker.
Brown-O'Neal, 29, was repeatedly stabbed by a man who had complained of not getting food stamps. Police said that as Brown-O'Neal interviewed the man, he pulled a large butcher knife and stabbed her numerous times in the shoulder and chest.
A security guard saw the attack and shot the suspect once in the shoulder, and detained him until police arrived.
Arnold Bates, 34, of the 1900 block of W. Fayette St., has been charged with first-degree murder, and is being held without bond at the City Jail.
Brown-O'Neal died shortly after the attack.
Before the funeral services, Schmoke embraced Marcus for several seconds. Boyish but brave, Marcus quietly listened as his mother was remembered.
"He needs love now," Schmoke said. "He is all of our sons now and he needs our love."
Friends have established a trust fund for Marcus. Donations are to be sent to the Tanja Brown-O'Neal Foundation Fund in care of Cora Vaughn, Harbor Bank of Maryland, 21 W. Fayette St., Baltimore 21201.
Brown-O'Neal is a 1989 graduate of Coppin State College who majored in psychology. Friends said she had planned to attend the University of Maryland at Baltimore to obtain a master's degree in psychology or public administration.
She had worked at the Rosemont office of the DSS for only seven months.
"She came to work with lots of love and joy," said Mildred Bradshaw, who worked alongside Brown-O'Neal. "She's at a place now where food stamps are not needed, a place where she made reservations at the age of eight."
Near the end of her remarks, Bradshaw asked all DSS workers there to stand and hundreds of DSS workers from throughout the church rose to their feet.
"We stand in solidarity against the system who allows sick and mental [patients] to be released," Bradshaw said. "We stand today to say farewell and that your life was not in vain."