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Newtown Principal Remembered as 'Warm,' 'Selfless'

Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung's niece and one former colleague say the shooting victim was a dedicated educator who put her schoolchildren first.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung was a warm, dedicated educator who was pursuing a doctorate degree in education when she was fatally shot Friday morning in a tragedy whose horrific details are slowly emerging.

Relatives have confirmed that 47-year-old Hochsprung was among the 27 people — including 20 children — killed at the school in a shooting spree whose cause and suspected gunman remain unclear.

Hochsprung’s niece, MaryAnn Suarez of Naugatuck, said her aunt devoted her life to the kids in her school.

“In every school she worked at, every teacher was her friend, she was every child’s friend,” Suarez said.

According to Suarez, Hochsprung is a married mother of two daughters and four grandchildren.

Details of the shooting are slowly emerging, and police have declined to identify the suspected gunman, citing an ongoing investigation. At about 9:40 a.m. today, a shooter entered the elementary school and opened fire, officials say. Police say the gunman shot and killed himself and that 20 children and six more adults also are dead. Police are conducting a second investigation at a residence in Sandy Hook, a section of Newtown on the Pootatuck River.

Katie Singley, who met Hochsprung at a school in Bethlehem about eight years ago when the latter was appointed principal there, said Hochsprung also had worked as a teacher in Danbury and at Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury prior to coming to Newtown around 2010.

Singley described her friend as a selfless and protective woman.

“Dawn, she was like your mother, your friend, your grandmother, your teacher, your protector, everything all in one,” Singley recalled. “She was the best person to have on your side.”

“I don’t really know what happened at the school when that shooter came in, but I know she would fight to protect those kids,” Singley added. “She was definitely the best woman for the job to be in charge today and I can picture her standing up to this man. I could see her fighting, doing anything to protect her staff and those little babies there. I think she died doing what she was put on this earth to do and that’s being in charge and protecting those kids.”

One schools official in nearby New York state — James Langlois, who serves as District Superintendent of Putnam/Northern Westchester Boards of Cooperative Educational Services and had worked with Hochsprung — said the deceased principal was "wonderful, happy" person, who was "full of energy," and who had a "bubbly personality." 

"She was clearly someone who loved what she was doing,” said Langlois, adding that he worked with Hochsprung while she was conducting academic interviews for her doctorate degree. “She'd light up when she talked about her work. It's a really sad loss."

"It was absolutely a delight to spend time with her,” Langlois added.

According to Suarez, Hochsprung was pursuing her higher degree in education in Albany, NY.

“It’s such a shame,” Suarez said. “She was so young.”

Religious leaders in Newtown are holding special prayer services Friday night.

More links to Newtown Patch’s coverage here:

  • Shooting Prompts Religious Leaders to Host Special Prayer Services
  • Reaction: Sandy Hook School Shooting
  • Police Raid Sandy Hook Home Hours After Shooting
  • [PHOTOS] Newtown School Shooting

[Editor's Note: Katie Singley is married to Paul Singley, local editor of Oxford and Naugatuck Patches.]

Veritas vos liberabit December 15, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Our prayers are with you, and with all victims and their families.
Heartbroken parent December 15, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Parents, make sure to give your children a big hug tonight, and tell them how much you love them.
Robert F. Galgano December 15, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Arab Rage, you are one sick bastard.
Desiree Galassi December 15, 2012 at 01:12 AM
I am heartbroken. She was a bright light who led with enthusiasm and vision for the benefit of children's futures. She was a role model administrator, one that once you meet you never forget.
John Munro December 15, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Love like there's no tomorrow.
Desiree Galassi December 15, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Patch, please remove inappropriate comments. Our community is grieving.
Wade December 15, 2012 at 02:58 AM
We grieve with you over this tragedy. May our prayers bring comfort and strength to your community. Napa, ca.
wyattspoppa December 15, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Every bullet she was hit with was one bullet that didn't end up killing a child. If you believe at all in destiny or fate, her entire life could have shaped her for this very day, a day when her love for children would see her saving one or two or three children when a lesser person might have stayed under a desk or locked in an office. She died so that others might live, and that my friends is the textbook definition of a hero.
daniel j langley December 15, 2012 at 03:24 AM
dear GOD, please bless all those affected by this senseless tragedy....especially the innocent children, not given the chance to grow up and have a life of their own. and bless all you sorrowing parents......my heart bleeds for you ....nothing anyone writes or says can diminish the horror , sadness , pain and anguish you are feeling. may GOD help you cope with this terrible tragedy. I pray that this country learns from this senseless act of stupidity, that the loss of so many sweet beings, will serve GOD,S purpose, and make the world a better, happier, place ..... GOD bless us all, everyone,
Jeffrey Tammen December 15, 2012 at 04:21 AM
She is a hero god bless newtown
susan December 15, 2012 at 05:33 AM
prayers love and our deepest condolences from Florida
Miss December 15, 2012 at 06:17 AM
She was an amazing woman. A great principal. She did wonderful things with Sandy Hook School and the children absolutely admired her as well as all of the faculty.
Sarah Larson December 15, 2012 at 06:45 AM
That's pretty amazing. Thank you for sharing that memory. In memory of Dawn, I'm going to add "Be nice to each other" to my vocabulary much more often.
jason petrasanta December 15, 2012 at 07:40 AM
you said my thoughts exactly
Charles Nethaway December 15, 2012 at 08:03 AM
Thank you, Patch, for publishing local news and postings regarding the tragic shootings in Newtown. I live in Northern Virginia and have five grandchildren: one in university, two in elementary, one in preschool, one at home. Night before shooting, I was at school for a Christmas pageant where the Kindergarteners belted out, "I love Jesus, this I know, ..." and all the children, K-8, so innocent and happy, participated in the safe environment of the school. God Bless all of you in Newtown and all the families of Sandy Hook School students, teachers, and staff. Reach out for help -- it will be there for you. Patch: Please post how people from around the world may help
Jaimie Cura (Editor) December 15, 2012 at 08:12 AM
Charles, thank you for commenting. We will have an article running tomorrow on ways to help and will continue to add to it as more info comes in. In the meantime, here's one way to help: http://newtown.patch.com/announcements/united-way-and-newtown-savings-bank-respond-to-the-tragedy-at-sandy-hook-elementary-school
Jaimie Cura (Editor) December 15, 2012 at 08:14 AM
And another way here: http://newtown.patch.com/blog_posts/teddys-for-newtown
Holly Witt December 15, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I am lost! I feel the need to help, although I know there is nothing I can do but pray. Just know the people of Harmony Maine are saddened and prayers will be sent to Newtown!
Danielle Nicole December 15, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Can someone please tell me what the school colors are for Sandy Hook? The students at Jackson Elementary School in Vienna WV would like to wear Sandy Hook's colors to show their love and support to the students and families there.
Jane Hill December 15, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Dawn for all of us who didn't have the pleasure of knowing you, your genuine smile has graced our hearts and speaks volumes about the type of person we would have encountered had we had the opportunity to meet you. My sincere sympathy to your family and friends that hold you so dear. You are a real hero and I'm sure that the little children that you tried to protect are walking with you now in God's heavenly garden.
Anne December 15, 2012 at 06:17 PM
my sympathy is with all the familys friends loved ones more angels looking down on this sometimes horriable world
Watts December 15, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Absolutely tragic. I had been watching this news all day and then later started to find out that the principle was Dawn. I went to HS with Dawn, had classes together, shared friends, etc. She was very smart even back then and I remember that she was more mature than the rest of us at that time. She was always happy and a very kind person, even back in HS. Despite not having seen her in decades, it was devastating to hear that this happened to her and the other staff and of course, the children.
Tammie Garrett December 15, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Down here in Baltimore, we are sending up prayer after prayer for the family. We offer our deepest condolences to all affected. I pray that God will strengthen you all in your time of need! God bless you.
John & Martina December 16, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Our deepest condolences to everyone affected by this horrible tragedy. We are praying for you, in hopes that God will give you much strength and comfort. {{{Hugs}}} from Los Angeles, California...
Sonya Bligh December 16, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Your town, the parents, the children and all of their families continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I am stunned by the events and happenings that have taken place in your little community. May the Lord and his angels bear you up today and in the days that follow. May you draw some comfort in knowing that the world grieves with you. Sonya Bligh Havelock, NC
Karl Hogquist December 16, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Dawn Hochsprung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn, near Danbury, a victim in the school massacre, reminds me of the several times I visited Danbury on business and associated with the local Episcopal church. I had a wonderful, but limited, experience of the loving community. I always remember it in that light. It is with great sadness that Connecticut is brought back into my consciousness on this occasion. I can only say continue to love unconditionally, forgive totally and completely, bless all, and pray for well being of all knowing God provides for all believing and accepting. Strive for increased enlightenment. There is nothing else to do but provide physical comfort and aid where ever possible. Clearly, it is impossible to imagine the extent of impact this has on all those directly and indirectly affected by the events of today, 14 December 2012. Many will deal with the emotional trauma as well as the physical impact over a period of time, in some cases a long period of time. We do know the consequences will become apparent over time and will unfold in unexpected ways. Hold the children especially close, reach beyond our own limited knowledge to comfort and succor them. Know as we hold them high we are lifted up to new heights of well being. Their success is our success. Peace and blessings, Karl Hogquist California 310-663-2906 khogquist@att.net khogquist@ca.rr.com
Matt walt December 17, 2012 at 06:50 AM
My all these souls rest in peace and all these caring words bring comfort to those that mourn.
Mikayla reese December 18, 2012 at 03:41 PM
just let everyone know that Shannon Elementary is keeping yall in our prayers at school.Also what a tradegy for this to happen to her.
chris jones December 22, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Prayers from Phoenixville Pa. We are so sad and speechless at this awful thing that happend to such precious children, and adults. Every life is precious....I hold my children a little tighter at now now because you never know. Love with all your heart today, because you just dont know if there is a tomorrow...
Sam Mihailoff January 16, 2013 at 08:40 PM
what was your intent to post this...factually incorrect and offensive

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