The five people who died in the Waukesha Christmas parade massacre on Sunday have been identified, and three were senior citizens.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the following five people were killed in the attack that left another 48 injured:
1.) Wilhelm Hospel, age 81
2.) Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, age 79
3.) LeAnna Owen, age 71
4.) Tamara Durand, age 52
5.) Jane Kulich, age 52
Sorenson, Owen, and Durand were all members of the “Dancing Grannies” group, who waved pompoms and marched through the parade with synchronized dance routines.
“An act like the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, who with their pom-poms, sense of humor and moxie have thrilled crowds across the area for decades,” noted the Sentinel. “On Sunday, they were doing what they loved best, performing, providing entertainment and bringing joy to those gathered at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.”
Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson has been described as the “heart” of the team, leading choreography and dance instructions despite her bad back and bad hip.
“What did she like about it? Everything,” David Sorenson, Virginia’s husband of 56 years, told the outlet. “She liked the instructing. She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women. She liked to perform.”
Virginia Sorenson leaves behind three children and six grandchildren.
Wilhelm Hospel routinely helped the Dancing Grannies because his wife, Lola, was a member. Wilhelm reportedly attended the parade to ferry the dancers and help make “sure everyone had what they needed.”
“Jim Ray, who identified himself on Facebook as a co-worker of Lola, wrote Monday that he was ‘absolutely heartbroken,’” reported the Sentinel. “Another man, Todd Heeter, wrote that Hospel was his former landlord. Heeter said he was at a loss for words after hearing the news that Hospel, who he described as ’81 years young,’ was dead.”
LeAnna Owen managed an apartment complex and was described as a kind person and the “nicest lady.”
“She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was the nicest lady,” said Dave Schmidt, who owns the two 32-unit buildings Owen managed.
“She was the glue that kept that apartment complex running for us,” he added. “She will be sorely missed.”
Schmidt emphasized that Owen would often light up with joy when discussing the Dancing Grannies.
A grandmother, Owen leaves behind two sons.
As a “young grandma,” Tamara Durand was “super excited” to make her debut with the Dancing Grannies on Sunday. Her husband, David Durand, said she had the dancing spirit.
“She danced her way through life,” Durand said. “She danced when there was no music. She always danced. That describes her personality.”
Tamara cared for her grandson four days a week so that her daughter could attend nursing school.
“She volunteered for several years as a chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, according to her LinkedIn page and a 2019 church bulletin,” reported the Sentinel. “The bulletin, from St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc, says she turned to work helping the sick and dying after converting to Catholicism.”
A Citizens Bank employee since 2020, Jane Kulich is thus far the only fatality who was not associated with the Dancing Grannies. She was walking alongside her company’s parade float, according to the New York Post.
“The world is a much darker place without a woman like this in the world,” a GoFundMe page started by Kulich’s family reads.
Prior to her work with Citizens Bank, Kulich “was a caregiver for Visiting Angels, worked as server at Dave’s Family restaurant for nearly four years and worked as a production assistant at Klinke Cleaners for two and a half years,” according to the Sentinel.
Kulich’s daughter, Taylor Smith, mourned her mother in a Facebook post: “There’s no words. It’s so unreal. My mom was killed last night. We are told she didn’t suffer. Thank God. I’m so grateful I got to have her this long, but damn. She was walking in the parade last night. She was so happy. I love you mom. Rest in peace my beautiful angel.”