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Grief and laughs at funerals for stabbing victims

Grief and laughs at  funerals for stabbing victimsPeople hug at a memorial service for Lawrence Hong, victim of April 15th mass stabbing, in Calgary, on Sunday, April 20, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

CALGARY - One was remembered as a wonderful friend who was always ready with a compliment, another as a tiny dancer with huge courage. The third was a skilled drummer who exemplified the statement all is good.

Three young people were remembered at funerals in Calgary on Monday — all victims in the worst mass murder in the city's history.

Jordan Segura, Kaiti Perras and Josh Hunter were stabbed to death along with Zackariah Rathwell and Lawrence Hong at a house party April 15. The party was being held to mark the end of classes at the University of Calgary.

A fellow party-goer, Matthew de Grood, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

Segura's funeral was the first of the day. The 22-year-old was a religious studies student at the University of Calgary and had worked for the past year at McInnis and Holloway, the funeral home where the service was held.

A plain wooden coffin was covered with a bouquet of white carnations and white roses sat at the front. A photo montage showed him as a youth and with family and friends.

Jayda Shreenan, friends with Segura since high school, reassured more than 300 mourners that the university student wasn't alone when he died — he was surrounded by those who loved him.

"Myself and a couple of friends were with him right at the end and I want you all to know that Jordan was not alone," said Shreenan, choking back tears.

Shreenan remembered Segura as a generous and wonderful friend, who was always ready with a compliment.

"I am so thankful that I was able to have Jordan in my life. It wasn't long enough, but the impact he made on me and the inspiration that he is something I'm going to take with me for the rest of my life," she said as mourners wiped away tears.

"I look out and see all of these people who just loved him so, so much. What happened a week ago is an absolute tragedy and he was taken from us far, far too soon."

Segura's older brother, Jullien, said Segura was all about integrity and speaking the truth.

He drew chuckles from the crowd when he talked about how he took being the big brother very seriously.

"I would pick on him just because I was bigger, but I made sure everyone knew that only I was allowed to pick on him," he said.

"It is great to hear that Jordan spoke so highly of his family when he was with his friends. We are grateful for all of them. His friends were his family."

Mourners heard Segura had two tattoos — one of his grandfather's favourite car, a Bel-Air, and another showing a red heart with "mom" written through it.

A reggae version of the original Bread song "Everything I Own" played in the background. Segura had mentioned to a co-worker once "that's the song I want played at my funeral."

"I would give everything I own, just to have you back again," the lyrics said.

The funeral for Perras came next. Her family had encouraged mourners attending the service to don "colourful attire."

There was overwhelming grief but also laughter as the 23-year-old was remembered as a dancer, sister, artist and confidante. Perras took dance for several years at Counterpoint Dance Academy.

The young woman's uncle told mourners that she was "a tiny girl with such huge courage."

Dance instructor Shannon Hearn said Perras was an integral part of the Counterpart Dance Academy. Hearn said Perras's heart and graciousness made her an exceptional human being. Perras was part of the dance school for more than a decade.

Sandy Koskie also spoke of her niece's love of dance. When Perras was dancing, she was truly free, natural and at peace, Koskie said.

Two trees are to be planted in memory of Perras at a Calgary park in the fall and a dance scholarship has been started in her name.

Mourners at Hunter's funeral, the last of the three Monday, heard from a family friend that Hunter's love of music wasn't limited to his band, but touched all facets of his life.

Hunter and Rathwell were members of the band Zackariah and the Prophets. The group had just played at an album release party on the weekend before they were killed.

Family friend Peter Gammell drew laughs when he recalled how Hunter had an annoying habit of drumming his thighs or replicating a musical beat with a cacophony of mouth clicks.

He said Hunter viewed making new friends as confirmation that the world was a wonderful place.

"He permitted access to anyone who showed interest. He exposed himself but he wasn't vulnerable. He was Everyman," Gammell said.

"Josh had moral standards. They were the kind that were quietly demonstrated, like the way he treated everyone around him. He would hang with little children as if they were his old friends. If he was going to a movie with his buddies, he wouldn't hesitate to include his parents. Who does that?

"He knew exactly who he was. He stood on the distant horizon that many of us gaze at longingly. He occupied that horizon."

A funeral for Rathwell was to be held Tuesday and a service for Hong is scheduled for Wednesday.

De Grood, who is the son of a senior Calgary police officer, was due to appear in court Tuesday.

He had completed a psychology degree from the University of Calgary last year and had been accepted into law school for the fall.

— With files from Calgary radio station CHQR

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