Lives remembered at string of Conn. services

December 21, 2012 - 9:33 PM
APTOPIX Connecticut School Shooting

The casket for Rachel D'Avino is carried into the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Conn., on Friday Dec. 21, 2012. D'Avino was killed when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/The Republican-American, Jim Shannon) MANDATORY CREDIT

The community of Newtown, Conn., is in the thick of funerals and memorial services for the 26 children and adults killed a week ago at an elementary school. A look at services held Friday:

RACHEL D'AVINO

The sun came out just as Rachel D'Avino's sister began delivering her eulogy.

D'Avino, 29, was a behavioral therapist who hadn't worked long at Sandy Hook Elementary. She had just completed her requirements to become a certified behavior analyst, the New Haven Register reported.

"That was Rachel — a hard worker, a risk taker, a winner," her sister Sarah D'Avino eulogized Friday at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Conn., according to the Register. "She excelled at everything she did, such as her incredible patience and ability to work with those with special needs, adults and children alike."

OLIVIA ENGEL

Monsignor Robert Weiss told at Olivia Engel's funeral that as she lay dying in Sandy Hook Elementary, a Newtown police officer held her in his arms and said, "I love you."

On Friday, a state trooper stood at attention by the 6-year-old's closed white casket, looking down as if watching over it, The Advocate of Stamford reported.

"If we listen really closely, we will hear Olivia speak to us," Weiss said: "'Mom and Dad, it's OK, I'm with Jesus.'"

DYLAN HOCKLEY

Dylan Hockley's mother remembers asking him once why he flapped his arms when he got excited.

Dylan, who had a form of autism that hindered his language development, answered: "Because I am a beautiful butterfly."

Nicole Hockley shared the anecdote Friday at Dylan's funeral at the Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel, Conn., according to the New Haven Register.

She referenced the so-called "butterfly effect," a theory that the flapping of a butterfly's wings can cause a chain reaction that influences weather a world away.

"If one butterfly can cause a hurricane, then 26 butterflies can change the world," she said.

Dylan's family moved to Sandy Hook two years ago from Hampshire, England. At the end of the ceremony, everyone gathered outside the church and applauded as Dylan's parents and brother released purple and white balloons. Purple was the 6-year-old's favorite color.

GRACE McDONNELL

"Gracie" McDonnell loved the beach, lighthouses and seashells. Her funeral program said, "May you always have a shell in your pocket, and sand in your shoes."

Every night at bedtime, 7-year-old Grace and her mother would do their secret handshake and end it with them both saying, "hot fire," the New Haven Register reported. They called themselves "fashionistas."

When her funeral Mass began at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, it was pouring rain, the newspaper said. But as the service ended with "Amazing Grace," the sun poured through the stained glass windows of pink and purple — Grace's favorite colors.

MARY SHERLACH

Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist who rushed the gunman, was remembered as a caring professional, a fan of the Miami Dolphins and someone who ultimately put the lives of others ahead of her own.

A standing room-only crowd filled St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church in Trumbull on Friday for the funeral of Sherlach, 56.

The church was adorned with a Christmas tree and several wreaths including one with the teal, white and orange colors of the Dolphins.

The Rev. Stephen Gleason said her love was Christ-like.

"No one has greater love than to give one's life for his friends," he said. "And she did so in an attempt to save others."