Four of the five people killed in the Waukesha Christmas parade attack on Sunday were affiliated with a dancing group of older women called the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies.
Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, and Tamara Durand, 52, were members of the Dancing Grannies, known for carrying pompoms and entertaining crowds with synchronized routines, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Victim Wilhelm Hospel, 81, was helping the group because his wife Lola is a member, his brother told The Post.
A fifth victim, Jane Kulich, 52, was a Citizens Bank employee who was killed walking along with the company’s parade float, her family said.
“She was here, part of a bank passing out candies with a float,” said her husband, John Kulich, outside of a crowded, interfaith vigil in Waukesha on Monday night. “She was the best mom, the best wife, the best person I knew.”
Durand’s husband David, 52, said she was the youngest of the Dancing Grannies and had been set to perform with the group for the first time. David and his father-in-law drove out to the scene when they heard what had happened and he believes his wife died immediately.
“I wasn’t able to get close to her body because they were blocking everything off,” David told The Post. “There were a lot of bodies and injured people, so it was not easy to see at first. So I had to identify her at the morgue.”
Leana “Lee” Owen was identified as one of the victims in the Waukesha Parade hit-and-run rampage.
He remembered his wife as a giving and caring person who volunteered to help dying people and babysat her granddaughter often.
“She danced her way through life, and she danced when there was no music,” he said. “And she was beautiful and attractive, but it was funny because she ate Twinkies for breakfast. She had more sugar than a sugar factory, but she ran every morning whether it was 15 degrees below or 85 or above.”
Tamara Durand’s final Facebook post showed her smiling, holding her pompoms and dressed in a winter coat and hat.
Durand’s final Facebook post made hours before an SUV plowed into the crowd at the Waukesha, killing the five and injuring dozens more, showed her smiling, holding her pompoms and dressed in a winter coat and hat.
“HERE WE GO!” she wrote in the post, alongside Santa Claus emojis. “First Milwaukee Dancing Grannies parade! So excited!” She was a former hospice chaplain and a chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Wilhelm Hospel was helping the group because his wife Lola is a member.
Theodore Hospel, 84, told The Post he was on a golf course in Florida when he heard his little brother Wilhelm was one of the victims. Wilhelm, the youngest of four brothers, died from internal bleeding and injuries to his pelvis, his brother said.
“I was talking to him this summer, and he said, ‘Who do you think is going to be the first one to go,’ you know,” Theodore said. “And lo and behold, the youngest one goes first.” Theodore said he visited Wilhelm and Lola in Wisconsin often, and found his brother “always repairing things” in a rental property he owned despite being retired.
“His job was never done, but he was so healthy,” Theodore said. “He was not on any major medication. He was a strong person and even would help me out a lot of times because he was so strong. I cannot believe it. It’s so tragic.”
Virginia “Ginny” Sorenson helped with choreography and was a mentor to newer Dancing Grannies.
Sorenson, a former registered nurse with three children and six grandchildren, helped with choreography and was a mentor to newer Dancing Grannies despite a bad back and hip, the Journal Sentinel said.
“She liked the instructing,” her husband David told the newspaper. “She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women. She liked to perform.”
She had planned to take part in the parade in a van, but at the last minute helped carry the banner at the rear of the group during the procession, her grieving husband said.
The Dancing Grannies said it was “devastated” by the tragedy in a Facebook post made Monday.
“Our group was doing what they loved, performing in front of crowds in a parade putting smiles on faces of all ages, filling them with joy and happiness,” the post said. “While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts.
“Those who died were extremely passionate Grannies,” the group said in the statement. “Their eyes gleamed …. Joy of being a Grannie. They were the glue …. held us together.’
Jane Kulich was a Citizens Bank employee who was killed walking along with the company’s parade float.
Citizens Bank memorialized Kulich in a statement released Monday, though the company didn’t identify her by name. “One of our team members who was walking with our parade float was struck and passed away as a result of her injuries,” the statement said. “Our condolences go out to her family and friends for this inconceivable loss. Please lift up our team and the entire community as we all grieve.”
Darrell Brooks, 39, was arrested and charged with five counts of intentional homicide in the attack, which injured 48 people. The district attorney had said Brooks was out on “inappropriately low” bond, which angered David Durand.
“This is a very easy cause and effect when you let somebody out like that,” Durand said. “It’s just a nonsensical, stupid thing. It’s not complex: bad guys do bad things, and then he gets out and does more bad things, and people die.” ✪
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