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Family, friends mourn victims of workplace shooting

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Reuven Rahamim
This July 2012 photo provided by Finance & Commerce shows Reuven Rahamim, owner of Accent Signage in Minneapolis, with a machine he invented for putting Braille lettering on signage. Rahamim, 61, was shot to death at his company on Thursday Sept. 27, 2012, by a man who burst into the building, shot several people and then killed himself.
AP Photo/Finance & Commerce, Bill Klotz

As two victims remained hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center on Sunday, friends and family on mourned five others killed by Andrew Engeldinger with a gun last week at a Minneapolis business.

Hundreds of people attended the funerals of Accent Signage owner Reuven Rahamim and his second-in-command, Rami Cooks.

"This feels like a nightmare," said senior rabbi Alexander Davis as he led the service for Rahamim at Beth El Synagogue in St Louis Park. "We keep wondering, 'When will we wake up?'"

Engledinger had lost his job at the company the same day he went on his shooting rampage.

The congregation remembered Rahamim as a man born in Israel who fought in the Yom Kippur War, who built a successful international business based on an idea to help blind people read signs, took a class when his two children were young to learn how to braid their hair, and who loved to sit on his deck with a cup of coffee and look out at the lake. 

"He was very proud, with reason, of coming to the United States, not speaking English, and building up his own company with several patents, national recognition, and international operations," said Rahamim's daughter, Miya Rahamim. "Sometimes I'd have to encourage him to get a patent because he didn't always realize what a breakthrough he'd made, because it came so naturally to him."

SPECIAL REPORT
• Five killed in Minneapolis workplace shooting
• Mayor expresses sadness
• Photos: Minneapolis neighborhood in shock
• Shooting victims, suspect, identified
• Triggers that lead to workplace violence
• Alleged shooter had gun at workplace
• Accent Signage 'devastated' by shootings
• Businessman, tinkerer Rahamim looked to bright future

Miya Rachamim also recalled how she first saw her dad cry when he dropped her off at college. 

"We were walking along across campus and all of a sudden he just burst into tears. And I didn't know what to do because I'd never seen him like that before. But as concrete and practical of a person as he was, he felt great emotion when it came to his family," she said.

Bryn Mawr shooting
Minneapolis police officers examine the scene at Accent Signage Systems Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 after a fatal shooting in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minn. Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Jessica Edberg also lost her father at Accent Signage. Ronald Edberg, 58, grew up in Minneapolis and went to technical college for graphic design, and had worked at Accent Signage for 10 years. She described her father as a man with a calm and unimposing authority who rarely spoke, but when he did, he made people laugh. She said the a pair had an annual ritual to celebrate her November birthday. 

"When I was old enough to go hunting, I said that's what I wanted for my birthday. And from the time I was 16, I went deer hunting every fall with him. So it's going to be really hard this year. Those are some of my fondest memories," she said. "You look at news articles about things like this and everybody always says, 'Oh, we're so tight-knit,' and 'Oh, we're such like a family.' But they really, really were. It made me feel good that he had that."

Edberg said she shied away at first from the media following the shooting. But then, she says, she began to appreciate the opportunity to tell people who her father was, besides a victim.

"We're so desensitized from things like this because we see tragedy everyday in the news and in the papers. And we forget that these are real people that have touched other people," she said.

Current and former employees of Accent Signage said Sunday they are making plans to help Rahamim's family keep the company going. Barry Lawrence, who worked there for 10 years, says it's the least he can do for Rahamim.  

"He hated letting people go. I've only seen it a few times," Larence said. "I remember one time, Reuven would even get nonprofit jobs just so -- when times got really slow -- just so we wouldn't have to let people go."

Lawrence said he was good friends with 62-year-old Rami Cooks, Rahamim's second-in-command, whose funeral was also held Sunday. Cooks' family released a statement saying: "Rami was the epitome of a family man who enjoyed nothing more than spending his free time with loved ones." 

Lawrence remembers Cooks as light-hearted. 

"When I'd go in to pick up materials, he says, 'Oh good, Barry's here! New joke!' So he made me tell jokes when I was there all the time, so he could take them and tell them to other people," he said.

Jacob Beneke also had a whimsical streak. The 34-year-old worked at Accent Signage as a graphic designer by day and painter and sculptor by night. His current exhibit at the Maple Grove Arts Center is called "white rabbit" and sports a body made of wood, a head constructed from a chainsaw motor, and a Heineken beer bottle cap for a nose. 

Bryn Mawr shooting
Two Accent Signage Systems employees comfort one another Friday, Sept. 28, 2012 while visiting the signage business where five people where killed in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minn., the day before.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Beneke also dabbled in abstract painting and made garden sculptures of robots and daisies made from things like farm equipment and bicycle wheels. The Arts Center's Lorrie Link said Beneke had gotten a lot more involved there over the past year and had just agreed to make some signs for the facility.

"He just had a lot of plans all of a sudden. We were supposed to meet Thursday night and we never connected. We hadn't decided on a time and i sent him an email asking him what time Thursday evening he wanted to meet, and I never heard from him, which was uncharacteristic of him," Beneke said.

Meanwhile, Andrew Engeldinger's family is trying to mourn while keeping the focus on the victims --  police say Engeldinger turned a gun on himself after his shooting rampage at the Bryn Mawr firm on Thursday, said Sue Abderholden, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Minnesota, who is acting as family's spokeswoman. She said the family was worried enough about Andrew that they took an intensive 12-week program to learn more about mental illness. Even so, Abderholden said it's hard to predict if a mentally ill person will become violent.

"You can look back and say, well, could I have done that, could I have done that, but they did what they could," Abderholden said of the family. "In this situation, there would have been no reason to prevent him from buying a gun. Now, whether we should track when people who buy lots of ammunition, maybe that's another issue to discuss, but since as far as we know he never even had treatment, there would've been no way to have known."

Services are pending for another victim: 50-year-old UPS driver Keith Basinski worked in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood west of downtown Minneapolis for 20 years and was known to neighbors by name. He was making a delivery on Thursday when Engeldinger began shooting.