What we know so far about the victims of the tragic Waukesha Christmas Parade
Five people were killed and at least 62 were wounded Sunday afternoon when a 39-year-old Milwaukee man drove a red SUV through Waukesha's annual Christmas parade, striking dozens of marchers. A sixth person, a child, died Tuesday from his injuries.
While information is still developing, here is what we know about the victims. Three were members of the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies, a local dance group for women who are grandmothers. One was married to a dancer, and helping the group at the parade. Another victim was an employee of Citizens Bank, struck as she marched alongside the bank's float. The latest victim was marching with his baseball team when he was hit.
MORE COVERAGE: What we know about the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy
HOW TO HELP: The United Way and others have created a fund for people affected by the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy
Jackson Sparks, 8
Jackson, 8, was marching in the parade with his baseball team when he and his 12-year-old brother, Tucker, were struck by the vehicle.
Jackson's death was announced Tuesday on his verified GoFundMe page and was confirmed by his baseball club and his family’s church.
Jackson, along with his brother, was seriously injured and was hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Children’s Wisconsin.
Jackson is the first child to die from his injuries in the incident.
According to his GoFundMe page, Jackson underwent brain surgery on Sunday. His brother was expected to be released from the hospital, according to the GoFundMe page.
The Waukesha Blazers Baseball/Fastpitch Softball Club is "heartbroken" by Jackson's death, club president Jeff Rogers said in a statement.
"We are devastated by the senseless act that turned a joyful event into a horrendous tragedy," he said.
“Jackson was a sweet, talented boy who was a joy to coach. He was an awesome utility player and played on the Blazers Wolfpack team," Rogers said.
Jackson was "tender-hearted with a contagious smile."
"He was the little guy on the team that everyone supported. You couldn’t help but love him," Rogers said.
Virginia "Ginny" Sorenson, 79
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."
The Sorensons lived a long and fulfilling life together, with three children and six grandchildren. They met decades ago at a church event.
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.
Leanna "Lee" Owen, 71
Owen managed a Cudahy 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 property 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!’”
Owen leaves behind two sons and three grandchildren.
Tamara Durand, 52
Durand was "super excited" Sunday because she was going to make her debut with the Milwaukee Dancing Grannies group.
In her excitement, she posted a picture to her Facebook page, dressed in the blue and white outfit worn by the Grannies and holding pom-poms, a wide smile on her face.
Just hours before, she had been in Florida, on a trip with a friend. She rescheduled her return flight so she could make it in time for the parade, said the friend, Tara Dall.
"This is a woman who never stopped," Dall said in an interview. "Her life was lived to the fullest up to the very last second."
Durand volunteered for several years as a chaplain at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, according to her LinkedIn page and a 2019 church bulletin. The bulletin 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 Beaver Dam Unified School District.
Durand had three children and a grandson, whom she adored. She helped take care of him four days a week so that her daughter could go to nursing school.
Jane Kulich, 52
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, Jane 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 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."
Kulich's daughter said she had three kids and three grandchildren.
Wilhelm "Bill" Hospel, 81
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.
Devi Shastri of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
If you knew any of these victims and would like to share a story about their lives, please contact reporter Sophie Carson at email@example.com.
Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal.
DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and more
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy: What we know about the 6 victims