Conn. victims: Lively youngsters, devoted adults

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 20, 2012 at 10:20 am •  Published: December 20, 2012

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — At the very start of their lives, the schoolchildren are remembered for their love of horses, or for the games they couldn't get enough of, or for always saying grace at dinner. The adult victims found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. The gunfire Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School left a toll both unbearable and incalculable: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

A glimpse of some of those who died:

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CHARLOTTE BACON, 6

They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Dec. 14, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the new pink dress and boots to school.

It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out. Charlotte's older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot.

Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, had lived in Newtown for four or five years, JoAnn's brother John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minn., told Newsday.

"She was going to go some places in this world," Hagen told the newspaper. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."

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DANIEL BARDEN, 7

Daniel's family says he was "fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life."

He was the youngest of three children and in a statement to the media, his family said Daniel earned his missing two front teeth and ripped jeans.

"Words really cannot express what a special boy Daniel was. Such a light. Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy," the family said.

His father, Mark, is a local musician. The New Haven Register reported the father had been scheduled to play a show at a restaurant Friday in Danbury that was later canceled.

On the biography on his professional website, Mark Barden lists spending time with his family as his favorite activity.

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RACHEL D'AVINO, 29

Days before the Connecticut shooting rampage, Rachel D'Avino's boyfriend had asked her parents for permission to marry her.

D'Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school, according to Lissa Lovetere Stone, a friend who is handling her funeral planned for Friday.

D'Avino's boyfriend, Anthony Cerritelli, planned to ask her to marry him on Christmas Eve, Lovetere Stone said.

Lovetere Stone said she met D'Avino in 2005 when D'Avino was assigned to her son, who has autism, in their town of Bethlehem, Conn. D'Avino, 29, was so dedicated she would make home visits and frequently offer guidance on handling situations such as helping her son deal with loud music at a wedding.

"Her job didn't end when the school bell rang at 3 o'clock," Lovetere Stone said.

Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.

"I'm heartbroken. I'm numb," Lovetere Stone said. "I think she taught me more about how to be a good mother to a special needs child than anyone else ever had."

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OLIVIA ENGEL, 6

Images of Olivia Rose Engel show a happy child, one with a great sense of humor, as her family said in a statement. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. Or swinging a pink baseball bat, posing on a boat, or making a silly face.

Olivia loved school, did very well in math and reading, and was "insightful for her age," said the statement released by her uncle, John Engel.

She was a child who "lit up a room and the people around her." Creative with drawing and designing, she was also a tennis and soccer player and took art classes, swimming, and dance lessons in ballet and hip hop. A Daisy Girl Scout, she enjoyed musical theater.

"She was a great big sister and was always very patient with her 3-year-old brother, Brayden," her family said, recalling that her favorite colors were purple and pink.

Olivia was learning the rosary and always led grace before the family dinner. "She was a grateful child who was always appreciative and never greedy," the family said.

Her father said she was a 6-year-old who had a lot to look forward to.

Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, recalled that she loved attention, had perfect manners and was a teacher's pet.

"Her only crime," he said, "is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old."

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JOSEPHINE GAY, 7

Josephine Gay had turned 7 just three days before the shooting. Her family says in a statement released Thursday that she was looking forward to her birthday party, scheduled for Dec. 15, the day after the shooting.

On Monday, purple balloons — her favorite color — sprouted from the family mailbox and those of all her neighbors.

Her family says "Joey" was autistic, and although she couldn't speak, "she touched the lives of so many around her: teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, all loved and cherished her. Joey was social and affectionate; she smiled, she loved hugs, and she even had a wonderful sense of humor. Her spirit was indomitable. She participated in rigorous therapy and treatment on a daily basis without complaint. She loved to play with her Barbie dolls, iPad, and computer, swim, swing, and be anywhere her sisters were."

Her family said they won't let the tragedy define Joey's life. They have established" Joey's Fund" through the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism as a way to "honor her inspiring and generous spirit." The proceeds will help families raising autistic children.

"It's our way of dealing with this pain and never letting go of her love," they said in the statement.

Online:

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http://www.dougflutiejrfoundation.org/

On the donation page please select "in Memory of" and type "Joey's Fund" in the box for "acknowledgement/address and comments."

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DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47, principal

Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.

She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, the 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.

Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.

"She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."

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DYLAN HOCKLEY, 6

The Hockley family moved to Sandy Hook two years ago from England, in love with the sense of community and the elementary school that their boys, Dylan and Jake, would attend. Dylan's mother, Nicole, is American, and his father, Ian, is British.

They moved into a house on the same street as the mother of the shooter, Adam Lanza.

In a statement, the family said their youngest boy had thrived at Sandy Hook.

"We do not and shall never regret this choice," the Hockleys said. "Our boys have flourished here, and our family's happiness has been limitless."

Dylan had a beaming smile. He played tag every morning at the bus stop with neighbors, bounced on the trampoline and played computer games. He loved purple, chocolate and seeing the moon. He was learning to read and was proud to show off his new skills to his parents. Jake was his best friend and role model.

"We love you Mister D," the Hockleys wrote in their statement.

Dylan also adored his teacher's aide, Anne Marie Murphy, and would point to her picture on the family fridge every day. They took great comfort, they said, in knowing that when Dylan died, he was wrapped in Murphy's arms. She also died.

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MADELEINE HSU, 6

Madeleine Hsu was shy and quiet — but she would light up around dogs.

Karen Dryer, who lived on the same street as the Hsu family, would see Madeleine's mom waiting for her at the bus stop at 3:15 every afternoon. Dryer would wait too, for her son Logan, who is in kindergarten. Dryer usually brought the family's golden retriever with her.

"She would come off the bus and her face would light up when she saw the dog," Dryer said.

Her mom would give her a big squeeze, and Madeleine would hug her little sister. "She was just an absolute doll," Dryer said. "She seemed very shy, but she was just so sweet."

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CATHERINE HUBBARD, 6

Catherine's parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.

"We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy," Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. "We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy."

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CHASE KOWALSKI, 7

Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing — and winning — his first mini-triathlon.

"You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.

Grimes' own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalskis' ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper's car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.

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NANCY LANZA, 52, gunman's mother

She once was known simply for the game nights she hosted and the holiday decorations she put up at her house. Now Nancy Lanza is known as her son's first victim.

Authorities say her 20-year-old son Adam gunned her down before killing 26 others at Sandy Hook. The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighborhood, but details were slow to emerge of who she was and what might have led her son to carry out such horror.

Kingston, N.H., Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said Nancy Lanza once lived in the community and was a kind, considerate and loving person. The former stockbroker at John Hancock in Boston was well-respected, Briggs said.

Court records show Lanza and her ex-husband, Peter Lanza, filed for divorce in 2008. He lives in Stamford and is a tax director at General Electric. A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She said her neighbor had enjoyed gardening.

"She was a very nice lady," Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person."

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JESSE LEWIS, 6

Six-year-old Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favorite breakfast sandwich — sausage, egg and cheese — at the neighborhood deli before going to school Friday morning.

Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, Conn., owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.

"He was always friendly; he always liked to talk," Salazar said.

Jesse's family has a collection of animals he enjoyed playing with, and he was learning to ride horseback.

Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Journal that Jesse was "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."

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ANA MARQUEZ-GREENE, 6

A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.

The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's sterling reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother also was at the school but escaped safely.

Elba Marquez had just visited the new home over Thanksgiving and is perplexed by what happened. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live," she said.

A video spreading across the Internet shows a confident Ana hitting every note as she sings "Come, Thou Almighty King." She flashes a big grin and waves to the camera when she's done.

Jorge Marquez confirmed the girl's father is saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was trying to "work through this nightmare."

"As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise," he wrote. "I love you sweetie girl."

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JAMES MATTIOLI, 6

James Mattioli especially loved recess and math, and his family described him as a "numbers guy" who came up with insights beyond his years to explain the relationship between numbers. He particularly loved the concept of googolplex, which a friend taught him.

He was born four weeks before his due date, and his family often joked that he came into the world early because he was hungry.

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