Visitation held for trainer pulled under by whale

February 28, 2010 (CHICAGO) Visitation was held for Dawn Brancheau.

While Brancheau grew up in Indiana, her visitation was held on the South Side, and her late father's career as a labor leader was in Chicago.

Brancheau was remembered as someone who always smiled and a person who knew at a very young age exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

From the afternoon into the evening, mourners stopped by the St. Rita of Cascia shrine chapel on the South Side to remember Brancheau, a person her high school classmates say they will never forget.

"She was honesty one the greatest people you will ever meet, always had smile on her face, and to this day, same memories, just a great person," said Rob Hruskoci, high school classmate.

"All the pictures in the news and papers, that was Dawn, smiling. She was always happy, always sunny. She probably was one of those people that never got mad at anybody," classmate Angela Gough said.

The 40-year-old trainer was killed last week after the 22-ft. whale named Tilikum grabbed her pony tail and pulled her under water.

Brancheau's job at SeaWorld was her dream come true. Her passion for whales and dolphins began after a family trip to SeaWorld when she was 9 years old. By the time she was at Anrean high school in Merriville, Branchea knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up.

"We knew she was going to do. She talked about it a lot in school. She always talked about wanting to work with dolphins and whales," said Carrie Best, also a classmate.

"I remember when Dawn turned 16, her dad adopted a whale. And we thought that was a strange gift for a 16-year-old girl. No clothes or jewelry. We thought it was a little crazy," classmate Terry Crussen said.

That was until classmates say Brancheau showed up at a high school reunion already living her dream.

Brancheau grew up in Indiana, but she came from a family with strong Chicago union ties. Her father was a labor leader.

Dawn Brancheau was the youngest of six children. Her brother, Chuck Loverde, is the leader for local union 1092 in Chicago.

Brancheau's funeral is Monday at 11 a.m. at the St. Rita of Cascia shrine chapel.

In the mean time, SeaWorld resumed its whale shows Saturday. The whale Tilikum was not among the whales that performed.

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