It’s no secret Damian Pannenbecker will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Pannenbecker, the 19-year-old man from Lacombe who was killed in a vehicle collision near Olds on Jan. 7, was described by his eldest sister Brie Guenther as the kind of person who made friends easily.
“He was fun-loving, compassionate, kind, hilarious, always had a smart-aleck comeback for everything,” said Guenther.
“He was always the one to put a smile on everybody’s face.”
Guenther also described her younger brother as someone who was always there to help those who needed it and a person who would stand up for the underdog.
She added these qualities and his happy-go-lucky personality made him a very likeable person.
“When he was with you, he made you feel good,” said Guenther.
“He was just one of those people. He was very charismatic and it was always enjoyable being around him. He made it very easy for people to like him.”
Pannenbecker was heavily involved in sports.
In the winter, he lived to play hockey, Guenther said. In fact, she said that if work were ever to interfere with hockey, her brother probably would have chosen to play hockey.
“Our entire family is a bit crazy about hockey,” said Guenther. “A large portion of our lives were spent at the rinks.”
Guenther said Pannenbecker started playing hockey at the age of four and “Never stopped.”
She added that while the sport was a big part of life for everyone in the family, it was especially for her brother and their father, Denny, who coached Damian throughout his minor hockey career.
In summertime, Damian transitioned from hockey to baseball and pursued that sport just as passionately, said Guenther.
“It was what he loved.”
Damian’s teammates certainly loved him too and Guenther said that those who played with her brother sort of became like extended family as well.
Certainly, his lack of presence on the bench will be felt strongly by the Ponoka Stampeders, who he played defence and served as assistant captain for.
His fellow Stampeders said that he was a good leader and friend. Damian took charge, played smart and pushed his teammates to do their best, they said.
“He’s one of the only guys I played with who was more competitive than I was,” said Stampeders goalie Eli Falls.
“We were all better for it.”
Falls also commented on his friend’s infectious smile.
“He had a smile on his face every time he came to the rink,” said Falls. “He was a good friend.”
More than 700 people attended the memorial service for Damian held this past Saturday. Guenther said even she and her family were surprised by how many people attended and had a lasting impression made on their lives by her brother.
To celebrate his life and his love for sports, friends and family also held a memorial skate on Saturday evening after the memorial service. Guenther said the event was extremely well attended.
“There were so many people there it was kind of hard to move around.”
She added that they are hoping to make the memorial skate an annual event.
Guenther also spoke of the “mind-blowing” support they have received since learning of Damian’s death.
“I don’t know how we would have gotten through it without everyone around us.”
Damian was killed in a collision when travelling home from a construction job in Olds. Guenther said the family started to worry when he didn’t pick his girlfriend up as planned and wasn’t answering his phone.
After learning there had been an accident near Olds, his parents left to find out what had happened to him.
At about 10:45 p.m. on Jan. 7, the police contacted them, asking them to return to their home.
Guenther said when the police met her parents at their home, they were told what had happened to their son.
Friends and family will likely miss his friendship, smile and heart the most.
“When he loved you, he loved you so much and would do anything for you,” said Guenther. “So for all of us I know that’s what we are going to miss most.”
– With files from Amelia Naismith