By Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press
After months of recovery from an accident, Donna Showdra was excited to venture on her first small trip doing something she loved — spending a day at the casino.
Showdra, 79, was among the seniors on a minibus from western Manitoba travelling to the Sand Hills Casino on June 15 when it went into the path of a semi-trailer truck on the Trans-Canada Highway near the town of Carberry.
Sixteen of the seniors, who were from Dauphin and the surrounding area, died in the crash, while nine others on the bus remain in hospital, including four in critical care.
Showdra’s family gathered for a private service in Dauphin on Monday morning, which was also livestreamed for the public, as funerals start for those who were killed in the fiery crash.
Cortney Prytula stood next to an enlarged photo of Showdra as she shared stories about her “compassionate but tough” baba, or grandmother, during the reading of a eulogy.
A light brown closed casket sat in the centre of the room. It was flanked by bouquets of yellow, white, orange and purple flowers.
At the end of last summer, Showdra was hit by a truck while walking in Dauphin, said Prytula.
” (Showdra) was determined and strong to overcome all of the challenges that came when healing from this accident.”
Weeks before her death, Showdra was “proudly” walking around a grocery store.
“Baba was proud and driven to gain some independence,” recalled Prytula.
“She proved to us that when things get hard, to keep focused on what is important, which is family.”
RCMP released the names of those who were killed last week during a news conference. The people on the bus were beloved grandparents, mothers, fathers and siblings.
The community held a memorial service the same evening during which 18 candles were lit — 16 for those who died, one for the injured still in hospital and another for first responders who helped at the crash scene.
At Showdra’s private service Monday, a video display showed family photos accompanied by music from country singer Alan Jackson and Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell, as well as rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
The mother of four was born in Grandview, Man., west of Dauphin, in 1943. She married her husband Paul in 1959.
“They were each other’s safety, soulmates and support. Together they farmed and raised a family,” said Prytula.
One of the couple’s greatest joys was being grandparents, and playing host to dancing and singing shows in their living room.
After Showdra’s husband died in 1995, she sold the farm and moved to Dauphin to be closer to her children and grandchildren.
Showdra loved to garden, cook and care for others. She also spent time travelling to Alaska, Niagara Falls and Alberta.
She met her partner John in 2000 and they continued a tradition of travelling before he died in 2017.
Prytula said as Showdra’s health declined in recent years, she passed on gardening tips from planting to maintaining the garden all year and then harvest.
In 2021, Showdra moved to a retirement home where she always had a “full candy bowl, a listening ear and appreciated all phone calls and visitors.”
“She had the best sense of humour, and although blunt, I think that’s what we most appreciated about her,” said Prytula.
Prytula thanked the first responders who supported the family during their difficult time.
She ended the service by asking family to cherish the memories they made with Showdra.
“We will navigate this together.”