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Baseball player killed in Alberta shooting 'meant the world to us'

Friends and Lethbridge Bulls teammates carry the casket at the funeral for Tanner Craswell in Charlottetown on Dec. 23, 2011. Mr. Craswell, teammate Mitch MacLean and Tabitha Stepple of Lethbridge, Alta. were killed in a roadside shooting in Alberta last week.


A teammate of Tanner Craswell's remembered the young man's uninhibited and affectionate nature on Friday as a second funeral was held in Prince Edward Island for a victim of a murder-suicide in Alberta.

Tyler Vavra said Mr. Craswell, a promising 22-year-old athlete, adored baseball but his heart remained close to his family in PEI while he played with the Lethbridge Bulls of the Western Major Baseball League.

"There was no better teammate," he told about 700 people who attended the service for Mr. Craswell at the Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church in Charlottetown.

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"Craswell's teammates meant the world to him and he meant the world to us. ... We shared time, we shared space and we shared love, and the greatest of these was love."

Mr. Craswell, a student at Lethbridge College, was one of three young people who were gunned down last week on the side of a highway in Alberta.

A funeral for his friend and teammate, 20-year-old Mitch MacLean, was held Thursday just outside Charlottetown in the community of Winsloe. They were headed to the airport to return home for the holidays when they were shot by Derek Jensen before he turned the gun on himself.

Mr. Jensen's ex-girlfriend, Tabitha Stepple of Lethbridge, was killed in the shooting and Shayna Conway, also of PEI, remains in hospital recovering from serious gunshot wounds. Police have said the shootings were motivated by Mr. Jensen's recent breakup with Ms. Stepple.

Mr. Vavra and Rev. Charlie Cheverie described Mr. Craswell as a young man who was comfortable throwing his arms around his mother and father, Cindy and Keith Craswell, and telling them he loved them.

Baseball players from across the country came to the services for Mr. Craswell and Mr. MacLean.

Lorne Carmichael, who coached Mr. Craswell in baseball and hockey on youth teams, said it's difficult for Islanders to understand what happened.

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"I can't make any sense of it. We're just missing a special guy," he said outside the church, which was decorated with wreaths, garlands and banners in preparation for Christmas Eve services.

Mr. Carmichael said the funerals have drawn families and friends more closely together.

"People loved Tanner, loved the Macleans, loved the Craswells. The support would be there any time of the year," he said.

Travis Gaudet, a student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said he'd played with Mr. Craswell on youth teams and provincial select teams.

"He had no problem showing his emotion, whether positive or negative. That's what you loved about him," he said.

"He'd get in fights with his dad on the field, or he'd be hugging his dad on the field. He didn't hide anything. He was 100 per cent himself the whole time.

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"He had a big impact on people's lives. It just doesn't seem real."

Mr. Craswell's family mentioned the impact he had on others in the funeral program: "Tanner touched the lives of so many people. The family would like each of you here today to consider yourself an honorary pallbearer for him."

A verse on the back of the program beneath a photo of Mr. Craswell walking toward a baseball diamond read: "If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane I'd walk right up to heaven and bring you home again."

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