Borough to hold vigil to remember shooting victims

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Gagi Brighndi of Shelton holds a candle during a vigil Friday at Saint Rose Church in Newtown following a deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Sandy Hook section in Newtown. Naugatuck is holding a vigil Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on the Town Green. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — The borough will hold a vigil Tuesday night beginning at 6 p.m. on the Town Green in remembrance of the victims of Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

On Friday morning, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy at their home in Newtown before driving to Sandy Hook. According to state police, Lanza forced his way into the school and killed 26 people, including 20 first graders, with a  Bushmaster .223 semiautomatic rifle before killing himself in the school.

Among those killed Friday, was the school’s principal Dawn (Lafferty) Hochsprung, a Naugatuck native who lived in Woodbury. According to reports, Hochsprung rushed to the sound of gunfire and broken glass to help her students. She was married with two daughters and three stepdaughters.

Hochsprung was a member of Naugatuck High School’s Class of 1983. She was elected class representative her senior year and was captain of the girls swimming and track teams.

Fred Scheithe had Hochsprung as a student in his sixth-grade social studies class at Hillside Middle School in the 1976-77 school year.

“I always remember her as a happy student, full of energy and always with a smile. She was involved in everything,” Scheithe said. “Dawn was an excellent student and the first to volunteer for anything when it was needed. I was not surprised when I heard that she rushed the shooter to try and stop him. That was Dawn, always the first to step up. She was one of my kids and I am glad I got to know her.”

This year book photo shows Dawn (Lafferty) Hochsprung, a member of Naugatuck High School’s Class of 1983, running track. Hochsprung was captain of the girls track team her senior year. -CONTRIBUTED

According to her obituary, Hochsprung received a bachelor’s degree in special education from Central Connecticut State University and her master’s degree in education from Southern Connecticut State University. She was working on her doctorate degree.

Hochsprung joined Region 14 as principal of Bethlehem Elementary School in 2004 and moved to Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury in 2007. She was principal at Sandy Hook for the past six years.

“She was sweet, very protective of her family, and there’s no doubt in my mind that she was protecting her staff and students,” said Nicky Titley, who lived next door to Hochsprung in Naugatuck, before Hochsprung was named a principal in Region 14.

Parents who knew Hochsprung from her Bethlehem Elementary days said there was never any question Hochsprung was in charge. Hochsprung was known to walk the halls with a to-do list, checking off things as they were done. Students knew the rules and were expected to follow them.

“But she was loving and put the kids first — it was always all about them,” said Christine DeCicco, who served on the PTO when Hochsprung was principal.

Hochsprung would fight for things if she knew they would benefit students.

Todd Brighthaupt, Hochsprung’s Woodbury neighbor of four years, said her love for children was obvious.

“Every time I’d be outside playing with my kids — I have a 6-year-old and a 2-1/2-year-old — she would always come over, get down on their level and ask how they were doing,” he said.

Maryanne Van Akin, a Board of Education member from Woodbury, said she had no doubt Hochsprung died defending her students.

“She was an advocate for children, so it does not surprise me she would be on the front line in something like this,” Van Akin said. “She’ll be sorely missed. It’s tragic.”

In Beacon Falls, the Beacon Falls Congregational Church, 69 Wolfe Ave., will hold a Blue Christmas Service of Light and Remembrance to honor the shooting victims at 7 p.m.

The Republican American contributed to this article.