A sisterhood': Beloved Milwaukee Dancing Grannies face death and tragedy after SUV assault

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  sister-mary-agnes-ample-bottom  •  2 weeks ago  •  20 comments

By:   Bill Glauber, Sophie Carson, Sarah Volpenhein and Talis Shelbourne

A sisterhood': Beloved Milwaukee Dancing Grannies face death and tragedy after SUV assault
"While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts."

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



MILWAUKEE — Every parade has an act that draws the eye, that brings a quick smile and a delighted laugh. 


An act like the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, who with their pom-poms, sense of humor and moxie have entertained crowds across the area for decades.

Funded in 1984, they usually performed 25 times a year, although they had to take a break in the earlier months of the pandemic.

"The Grannies are kind of a really tight unit," said Beth Krohn, a retired member of the group. "We used to call it a sisterhood."

On Sunday, the women were doing what they loved best: performing, providing entertainment and bringing joy to those gathered at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.

But in an instant, when a red SUV roared down the parade route, several of the Dancing Grannies were tragically run down, with four fatalities.

On Monday, police released the names of those killed, including Virginia Sorenson, 79, LeAnna Owen, 71, and Tamara Durand, 52, who were all part of the Dancing Grannies, and Wilhelm Hospel, 81, who helped the group.

A fifth person also died. Police identified her as Jane Kulich, 52. Kulich worked at Citizens Bank, which said in a statement that "one of our team members who was walking with the parade float was struck and passed away as a result of her injuries."

"Our condolences go out to her family and friends for this inconceivable loss," the bank said in its statement. "Please lift our team and the entire community as we all grieve."

It's hard to imagine, so close to Thanksgiving, the unparalleled grief visited on the families and friends of those who died. Each used their time and talent to help others in their own way.

Virginia Sorenson: Heart of the group


If the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies had a beating heart, it was Sorenson. Everyone called her Ginny.

She had a bad back and a bad hip but loved to dance and was an instructor and choreographer who helped newcomers and veterans with the group's routines.

"What did she like about it? Everything," said her husband of 56 years, David Sorenson. "She liked the instructing. She liked the dancing and the camaraderie of the women. She liked to perform."

Sorenson, a 19-year veteran of the Dancing Grannies, was near the back of the group holding a banner when she was killed.

David Sorenson was at the parade Sunday, helping ferry the dancers from their parking spots at the finish to the start of the route.

He said Ginny "was going to ride in the van behind the women and be an instructor. They were short help so she offered to hold the banner going down the street. So she did that. I was at the end (of the parade route) in the car. I was sitting in the car waiting."

She never arrived.

The Sorensons lived a long and fulfilling life together, with three children and six grandchildren. They met decades ago at a church event.

"She taught me to do the Can-Can," her husband said.

At their home in Muskego, she cared for animals, including two horses, chickens, dogs and cats.

A registered nurse, Ginny Sorenson still worked part-time in medical records. She used the extra money to pay for the horses and give treats to the grandchildren, her daughter Heather Sorenson said.

For the Sorensons, the Grannies were an activity for the entire family. Their grand kids often marched with the group and held the banner. The Sorensons also held frequent parties for the group, especially around Halloween.

Tamara Durand: Making her debut


At the opposite end of experience on the Dancing Grannies was Durand, a young grandma who was “super excited” Sunday because she was going to make her debut with the group.

“She danced her way through life,” her husband David Durand said Monday. “She danced when there was no music. She always danced. That describes her personality.”

Besides dancing, Durand had a passion for her grandson, providing care for him four days a week so that her daughter could go to nursing school.

She volunteered for several years as a chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, according to her LinkedIn page and a 2019 church bulletin. The bulletin, from St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc, says she turned to work helping the sick and dying after converting to Catholicism.

Before that, she worked for more than 17 years as an elementary school teacher at the Beaver Dam Unified School District.

On Sunday, she posted a picture to her Facebook page, dressed in the blue and white outfit worn by Grannies and holding pom-poms. She wrote that it was her first Dancing Grannies parade.

Her death left her family heartbroken. “Everybody is pretty shocked,” her husband said.

LeAnna Owen: Always encouraging


Owen of Cudahy managed an apartment complex and was an enthusiastic member of the Dancing Grannies.

Owen was full of kindness for her tenants, said Dave Schmidt, who owns the two 32-unit buildings Owen managed.

“She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was the nicest lady,” Schmidt said.

Owen had managed the properties on South Packard Avenue for about 10 years. Before that, she lived at another property Schmidt’s family owned.

“She was the glue that kept that apartment complex running for us,” Schmidt said. “She will be sorely missed.”

Owen was focused on making sure tenants had a positive experience, Schmidt said. She knew, and had relationships with, every tenant.

The Dancing Grannies were an integral part of her identity.

“When she’d bring it up ... she would just have this big smile on her face,” Schmidt said.

When a reporter from WDJT-TV (Channel 58) profiled the group in August, Owen’s interview was featured heavily.

“Can you keep up with the group?” reporter Winnie Dortch asked Owen, who was the smallest, shortest dancing granny of the crew.

“Oh, you bet I can,” Owen responded, laughing. “I’m encouraging them. ‘Come on, come on!' "

Speaking in her sparkly red and white parade costume, Owen recalled a treasured moment when members of the group were recognized by children on a trip to Door County.

“A whole bunch of them got up and came over and started talking to us, and it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re kind of like minor celebrities,' ” Owen recounted to the reporter.

Owen, a grandmother, leaves behind two sons.

Wilhelm Hospel: Helped the dancers


Hospel was a familiar presence among the Grannies. His wife, Lola, was one of the dancers, and he helped out, ferrying the dancers and making 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." 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.

Jane Kulich: A bright light of service


An online fundraiser for Kulich's family, verified by a GoFundMe spokesperson, called Kulich "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 GoFundMe page reads.

According to her LinkedIn page, Kulich described herself as "a very hard worker who enjoys helping others" with "awesome customer service skills."

She had worked at Citizens Bank as a teller since November of 2020.

Prior to that, 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.

Kulich had studied medical billing and coding at West Allis' now-closed Sanford Brown College and she listed the following as causes she cared about: animal welfare, children and human rights.

In a Facebook post, Kulich's daughter, Taylor Smith, wrote this tribute: "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."

Smiles, cheers, warmth


On Monday, the Waukesha community was in deep mourning as people tried to come to terms with the deaths, the injuries, the trauma. It was the kind of event that ripples out into southeast Wisconsin and across the country.

And it will never make sense.

In a post shared on Facebook, the Grannies said: "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.

"While performing the grannies enjoyed hearing the crowds cheers and applause which certainly brought smiles to their faces and warmed their hearts."

Devi Shastri of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.



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Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
1  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom    2 weeks ago

If I live to be a million years old, I will never, ever understand this.

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
1.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @1    2 weeks ago

Amen Sis... pure insanity...

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
2  sandy-2021492    2 weeks ago

Why this guy was out on bail, having a recent history of violence, is beyond me.  He should not have been free to cause harm to these wonderful people.

 
 
 
MonsterMash
Sophomore Participates
2.1  MonsterMash  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2    2 weeks ago
Why this guy was out on bail

The perp, Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, recently had been released from custody in a strikingly similar case, in which he was accused of driving over a woman during a domestic dispute, sending her to the hospital and leaving tire marks on her pant leg.

The  Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office , which is prosecuting that case, said Monday it was launching an internal review of a prosecutor’s “inappropriately low” $1000  bail recommendation. The bail amount was signed off on by a court commissioner.

Darrell Brooks is the suspect in the Waukesha Christmas Parade incident. The Milwaukee man has been charged with crimes 10 times since 1999. (msn.com)

Darrell Brooks

darrell-brooks-jr.jpg

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
2.1.1  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  MonsterMash @2.1    2 weeks ago

Am I hallucinating, or is that a red SUV in the background?  

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
2.1.2  Nowhere Man  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @2.1.1    2 weeks ago

Yep, probably the murder weapon... Red Ford Explorer....

 
 
 
shona1
Sophomore Participates
2.1.3  shona1  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @2.1.1    2 weeks ago

Evening sister...they just said on the news here it is the SUV  he was driving...

When he mowed down the people..🥀🥀🥀

He is a waste of space and should no longer walk this earth..

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
2.1.4  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  Nowhere Man @2.1.2    2 weeks ago

I almost didn't notice it.  It was difficult getting past the ears and the fake dreads.

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
2.1.5  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  shona1 @2.1.3    2 weeks ago
they just said on the news here it is the SUV  he was driving...

Maybe one of these days we'll make the news there for a good reason.  Until then, let me apologize on behalf of the United States.  I know it's difficult to fathom, but we're not all sick and twisted.  

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
2.2  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  sandy-2021492 @2    2 weeks ago
He should not have been free to cause harm to these wonderful people.

Yeah, that $1,000 bond was a dandy idea.  I wonder if the judge has a fallback career.  

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
2.2.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @2.2    2 weeks ago

How about the prosecutor? you think they got a cellar office deep enough for him?

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
2.2.2  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  Nowhere Man @2.2.1    2 weeks ago
How about the prosecutor?

I forgot about his part.  He had a say in the amount, as well.  Also, shouldn't the prosecutor's office have known about the arrest warrant out of Nevada?  

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
2.2.3  Nowhere Man  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @2.2.2    2 weeks ago
Also, shouldn't the prosecutor's office have known about the arrest warrant out of Nevada?  

You would think... I mean when I was raisin cain, they always seems to know everything, even what I was going to do tomorrow....

 
 
 
squiggy
Sophomore Quiet
2.2.4  squiggy  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @2.2    2 weeks ago

Waaaiiiitttt, Mister Sister. Wokeness has declared cash bail to be unfair to people who need to post cash bail. The left hasn't yet seen criminal behavior as a progression of bolder acts and seems to believe a time-out will solve the problem.

 
 
 
sandy-2021492
Professor Principal
2.2.5  sandy-2021492  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @2.2    2 weeks ago

I read something somewhere about Wisconsin's courts being so backlogged that they can't deliver on the "speedy trial" promise, so bail amounts are being lowered so that people aren't in custody for years.  Not sure if that's true.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
3  JohnRussell    2 weeks ago

The killer is a depraved soul. People are objects to him. 

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
3.1  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  JohnRussell @3    2 weeks ago
The killer is a depraved soul. People are objects to him. 

Too right.  From what I can tell, he's been this way most of his life, but has avoided any real punishment for the crimes he has committed.  Hells bells, he should be in a Nevada jail cell right this minute had someone bothered to check for out-of-state warrants.  

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Participates
3.1.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom @3.1    2 weeks ago

Heck maybe his mama should have smacked him a few times on the butt when he was a precocious brat... 

How ya been sis. I've missed ya... Keeping your wimple starched and your cigar box full I hope...

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
Professor Guide
3.1.2  seeder  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom  replied to  Nowhere Man @3.1.1    2 weeks ago

Wimple starched, noggin-thumping ruler at the ready.

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
4  Trout Giggles    2 weeks ago

What a tragedy. These women just wanted to dance for their adoring audience and in an instant lives are torn apart. That's no way for someone's gramma to go.

I know Wisconsin doesn't have the death penalty but maybe they'll make an exception in the case of this career criminal

 
 
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