Virginia Sorenson, LeAnna Owen, Tamara Durand, and Wilhelm Hospel — four of the five victims in the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy — were affiliated with the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a local dance group for senior women, according to local reports.
The above four and 52-year-old Jane Kulich were killed Sunday when a driver in a red SUV plowed into the parade route, as Breaking Daily News has previously reported. Forty more marchers were injured in the horrific tragedy.
Darrell Brooks, a 39-year-old Milwaukee resident, was arrested in connection with the deaths on Monday.
Virginia Sorenson, 79
Virginia Sorenson, who friends and loved ones called Ginny, was 79 years old at the time of her death. A retired registered nurse, Sorenson was a mother of three and a grandmother to six.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sorenson was the “beating heart” of the Dancing Grannies. She assisted the group in developing its choreography and acted as a mentor to newer members of the dance troop, the newspaper reported.
“What did she like about it? Everything,” said her husband David, with whom she shared 56 years of her life. “She liked the instructing. She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women. She liked to perform.”
LeAnna Owen, 71
The manager of an apartment complex in nearby Cudahy, LeAnna Owen was “full of kindness” for her tenants and her friends, recalled David Schmidt, who owns the complex where she worked.
“She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was the nicest lady,” Schmidt told the newspaper. He said he’d known Owen for years — she had managed the apartments for a decade before her death, and before that was a tenant of Schmidt’s.
Being a member of the Dancing Grannies was “integral” to Owen’s identity, the newspaper reported. She was prominent in a local TV news feature from August that profiled the group, and had described herself and her fellow “grannies” as “minor celebrities.”
Tamara Durand, 52
For 52-year-old Tamara Durand, Sunday’s Christmas parade marked her first public performance with the Dancing Grannies. She had just joined up, and her husband David told the Journal Sentinel Monday she was “super excited” for her debut.
“She danced her way through life,” David reflected. “She danced when there was no music. She always danced. That describes her personality.”
Durand spent 17 years as an elementary school teacher, and was known to keep busy in retirement. She looked after her beloved grandson four days a week, and was an active volunteer at the local hospital and with her church, according to the report.
Wilhelm Hospel, 81
Eighty-one-year-old Wilhelm Hospel wasn’t a dancer (or a grannie), but his wife Lola was, a family member told the New York Post.
According to local reports, Hospel was always helping out with his wife’s dance troupe — giving rides to dancers to and from events and generally “making sure everybody had what they needed.”
His big brother Theodore Hospel, 84, told the Post that Wilhelm was the youngest of five siblings, all of whom were still living as of Monday.
Wilhelm Hospel is survived by his wife Lola.
Jane Kulich, 52
Not a member of the Dancing Grannies, Jane Kulich was at Sunday’s parade as an employee of Citizens Bank, marching with her company’s float when she was killed.
In a GoFundMe page set up to help pay funeral costs, a loved one of Kulich remembered her as a “loving, beautiful and charismatic mother, grandmother and friend to so many.”
“The world is a much darker place without a woman like this in the world,” the bereaved wrote.
According to the Journal Sentinel, the 52-year-old had a varied career. Before starting work at the bank, she had been a caregiver, a server at a beloved local restaurant, and a “production assistant” at a cleaning company in town.