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Wisconsin Weeps

Associated Press / Jeffrey Phelps

Wisconsin Weeps

Six people were killed in the attack at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. We now know their names and their stories.

Three of them were described in an Associated Press report that began: A religious leader who would do anything for his beloved, tight-knit Sikh community. A former farmer who left his fields in rural northern India and found a new home at the temple. A joke-telling Sikh priest whose family had just arrived from India. The three men were among the six killed Sunday by a former Army soldier at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published brief obituaries for all six victims: Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65, the temple president; Suveg Singh, the eldest at age 84; Prakash Singh, the youngest at 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41, the only woman killed; Sita Singh, 41; and Ranjit Singh, 49.

 Satwant Singh Kaleka (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Satwant Singh Kaleka died defending the temple he built, attempting to fend off a gunman who attacked worshippers Sunday, family members said, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Kaleka came to the United States with $100 in his pocket and worked tirelessly to give back to others and build a vibrant Sikh community in the south of the city.

The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin grew from a tiny congregation of about 10 to 15 families who used to rent out the pavilion in Humboldt Park each Sunday in 1992.

Kaleka spearheaded the growth of the congregation, which by the late 1990s had moved into an old credit union building on E. Lincoln Ave. and later bought five acres at 7512 S. Howell Ave. in Oak Creek and built the current temple, which officially opened in July 2007.

AP reported that Kaleka managed to find a simple butter knife in the temple and tried to stab the gunman before being shot twice near the hip or upper leg, his son said Monday.

His son added: Whatever time he spent in that struggle gave the women time to get cover in the kitchen.

 Paramjit Kaur Toor (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)Paramjit Kaur Toor was the only woman killed in Sunday’s shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, the Journal Sentinel reported. She was the mother of two sons, ages 18 and 20.

She was a weekly presence at the temple. She came to pray and to prepare food every Sunday for the shared meal.

She and her husband — nicknamed Inder — and her two sons emigrated from the Punjab region in India about five years ago. They lived in Oak Creek. She and her sons returned from a trip to their homeland a couple of months ago.

Suveg Singh was known to come to the temple early in the morning and stay through the evening, sometimes as late as 7 p.m., according to the report in the Milwaukee paper.

He held a key role at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. He provided fellowship. He would ask cabdrivers about their families or offer an uplifting scripture passage.

The 84-year-old former farmer and his wife moved to the United States from Patiala, a city in Punjab, in northern India in 1994 to join their son, according to the AP.

Sita Singh, a Sikh priest, moved to Oak Creek from New York City about six months ago to serve the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin while another priest was gone. He was shot and killed along with his older brother, Ranjit Singh, according to the Journal Sentinel.

Sita Singh was dedicated to all aspects of the temple, cutting the grass on the property and trimming the bushes. He led morning services every day about 5 a.m. and lived in the temple where his brother had once served as a longtime priest.

Ranjit Singh, his brother, came to the United States from Delhi, India, about 16 years ago, the Milwaukee paper said.

Singh played the tabalas, a type of drum, during prayer services at the temple. He worked odd jobs on weekdays, sending what money he could home to his wife and son.

Prakash Singh, a priest at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin for about six years, reunited with his family – his wife, 11-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter - just 45 days ago, the Journal Sentinel said.

Singh had been in the United States for about nine years but received his green card six or seven months ago. He had been staying in the living quarters at the temple.

After reuniting with his family, Prakash Singh was preparing to move. A priest may only live in the temple alone, not with family. Prakash Singh had just found a new apartment to share with his children and wife.


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.