More than seven years after the attack on the Sikh Gurdwara of Wisconsin, another victim of the mass shooting has died. Punjab Singh, a well-known Sikh priest who was grievously wounded during the assault, died early Monday at West Allis Memorial Hospital, according to a family friend.
Punjab Singh was aged 72.
“People should know that until the day he died he embodied optimism,” said Pardeep Kaleka, executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
“Six people passed that day,” added Kaleka, whose father was one of the victims. “The seventh was the shooter. Punjab Singh would be the eighth one.”
On Aug. 5, 2012, a white supremacist gunman burst into the temple in Oak Creek, killed six people and wounded four others. The gunman killed himself after being wounded by an Oak Creek police officer.
Singh, who frequently travelled to Wisconsin, had been in Milwaukee for only a few days before the attack.
Singh was shot in the right cheek, spent months recovering in a hospital and then lived most of the rest of his life in a long-term care facility. The attack left Singh paralyzed. Punjab Singh could communicate yes and no by blinking his eyes.
“Punjab couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move. But he would understand if you talked to him,” said Mandeep Kaur, a friend of the family.
Singh was born in Pakistan and moved with his family to the Punjab state in northern India. As a teen, he embarked on a path to becoming a priest.
“He was a spiritual leader,” Kaur said. “Punjab travelled throughout the United States and in India. Singh was a preacher by profession. He was someone who believed in honest living, helping the less fortunate. Someone that believed in health. He was very active. When it came to eating, he was cautious by what he ate.”
“Punjab Singh was somebody who lived by an example,” she added. “Singh put the example for others to follow. He didn’t just preach. He lived what he preached.”
Kaur said the last seven and a half years were very difficult for Singh and his family. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.
“That’s not the way he wanted to live his last few years,” she said, adding that Singh always sought to live his life “in high spirits.”
The New York-based Sikh Coalition tweeted that it was “deeply saddened” to hear of Singh’s death.
The group said: “His outlook on life will always serve as a reminder that love is stronger than hate, and that we are strongest when we come together.”