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Family, friends, teammates remember highway shooting victim at PEI funeral

Members of the Lethbridge Bulls baseball team carry the casket of teammate Mitch MacLean at his funeral in Winsloe, PEI, on Dec. 22, 2011.


The mother of a young man who was gunned down at the side of a highway in Alberta last week read a poem of remembrance she wrote about her son's love of baseball at his funeral on Thursday.

Dianne MacLean was held lightly by her husband Irwin as she told about 600 people – many of them teammates holding baseballs – about how her son Mitch had a ball glove on his hand at a young age.

The poem titled Last Time at the Plate described his battle with a pitcher that ends with him stroking a home run into the bleachers.

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She said she imagined the moment in the poem as her son's last game.

"Mitch was the happiest, the happiest of all with a bat on his shoulder and a glove and ball. The game is now over. You must pack up your gear.

"We know you'll keep playing. It's just not going to be here," Ms. MacLean said.

"Love you, Mitchie," she said as many in the congregation – including dozens of former teammates from Alberta and Prince Edward Island – wept openly.

The funeral for Mr. MacLean, who was 20, was held in a United Church on the outskirts of Charlottetown.

He was one of four young people shot last week by Derek Jensen, just north of the town of Claresholm, before Mr. Jensen killed himself.

Police have said the shootings were motivated by Mr. Jensen's recent breakup with a young woman in the vehicle, Tabitha Stepple, who was remembered at a funeral service on Wednesday in Lethbridge.

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Mr. MacLean and Tanner Craswell, who was 22 and also from PEI, were baseball players studying at Lethbridge College.

They were on their way to the airport to return home for the holidays when they were shot.

In the funeral program, Mr. MacLean's family expressed their gratitude for the support they have received.

"Words cannot adequately express the debt of thanks we owe to so many who have surrounded us with love and supported and comforted us in countless ways this week," said the statement.

"Your stories, your laughter, your tears, your offers to help ... have warmed our hearts and lifted our spirits."

Police have said 21-year-old Shayna Conway, who was badly injured in the shootings, was driving Ms. Stepple's car on the night of the shootings.

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The women were taking Mr. Craswell, who was Ms. Conway's boyfriend, and Mr. MacLean to the airport.

Mr. Craswell's funeral is scheduled to take place on Friday in Charlottetown.

Mr. MacLean and Mr. Craswell were promising baseball stars with the Bulls of the Western Major Baseball League. Mr. MacLean was named rookie of the year and Mr. Craswell was an all-star shortstop.

Former coaches have said Mr. MacLean was among the best players from the Island, playing for the 2009 Canada Summer Games team, and for four years with the Island select team. He had just signed a letter of intent with a college team in the United States.

Ms. Conway's former co-workers at a fruit drink restaurant in Charlottetown are collecting donations for the young woman's family to help offset the costs of her medical care and family travel expenses.

"Everyone is coming out and showing great support," Alyssa Farrar, the manager of the Juice Zone, said in an interview. "Everyone loves her. She's strong, she's beautiful."

She said the young women who work at the restaurant wanted to find a way to react positively to an incident that left them feeling vulnerable and frightened.

"It was scary. ... I didn't believe it at first but we're slowly going to try and get through it. We're all here for each other," she said.

"It proves how much of a family Prince Edward Island is. Everyone comes together as soon as something like this happens. It just took hours to start doing things for the boys, and things for Shayna."

Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, The Canadian Press incorrectly named the Charlottetown restaurant. This version has been corrected.

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