'Always Smiling': Portraits of Conn. Victims

By MATT SEDENSKY

Associated Press Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist

When the shots rang out, Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.

Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Sherlach and the school’s principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.

Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.

Her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Sherlach rooted on the Miami Dolphins, enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes, relished helping children overcome their problems. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance. In a news conference Saturday, he told reporters the loss was devastating, but that Sherlach was doing what she loved.

‘‘Mary felt like she was doing God’s work,’’ he said, ‘‘working with the children.’’

Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30, teacher

Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.

Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.

‘‘Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten,’’ she said. ‘‘We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream.’’

Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job.

‘‘It was the best year of her life,’’ she told the paper.

Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see ‘‘The Hobbit’’ with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was born in Danbury, attended Danbury High, college at the University of Connecticut and graduate school at the University of Bridgeport.

She was a lover of music, dance and theater.

‘‘I’m used to having people die who are older,’’ her mother said, ‘‘not the person whose room is up over the kitchen.’’

Anne Marie Murphy, 52, teacher

A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.

Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hour by hour ticked by. And then it came.

Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. As the grim news arrived, the victim’s mother reached for her rosary.

‘‘You don’t expect your daughter to be murdered,’’ her father told the newspaper. ‘‘It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere.’’

Chase Kowalski, 7, student

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 Kowalski’s ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper’s car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.

Emilie Parker, 6, student

Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.

Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blonde, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except food.

Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He’s sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.

‘‘I’m so blessed to be her dad,’’ he said.

Nancy Lanza, 52, gunman’s mother

She was known before 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 Lanza’s 20-year-old son Adam gunned his mother 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.’’

Catherine Hubbard, 6, student

A family friend turned reporters away from the house but 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.’’

Madeleine Hsu, 6, student

Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine’s house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.

Velsmid said that after hearing of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.

‘‘We were waiting for casualties to come out and there was nothing. There was no need unfortunately,’’ he said. ‘‘This is the darkest thing I’ve ever walked into by far.’’

Velsmid’s daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.

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Associated Press writers Denise Lavoie, Mark Scolforo, Allen Breed and Danica Coto contributed to this report.

 

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About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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