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Sandy Hook principal had ties to Broadalbin

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
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This July 2010 photo provided by the Newtown Bee shows Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Eliza Hallabeck)
This July 2010 photo provided by the Newtown Bee shows Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn. (AP Photo/Eliza Hallabeck)

— The principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, killed last week along with 25 others in the school, had family ties to the Broadalbin area of Fulton County.

Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, whose mother lives on Lakeview Road, will be remembered along with the other shooting victims in a candlelight vigil tonight in the village of Broadalbin.

The vigil will start at 7 p.m. in front of the Presbyterian Church on West Main Street. It will last 30 minutes, followed by refreshments at the Father Smith Center at St. Joseph’s Church.

Related story, video

The principal is remembered for her heroic actions. See CBS News report, including video, here.

Organizing the vigil are Katie Kosowicz Bolibaugh and Sandy Phillips Bruse of Broadalbin.

Bruse said she might have met Hochsprung years ago, but she is more familiar with Hochsprung’s mother, Cheryl Lafferty.

“Most of the people I know went to school with Cheryl. My sister graduated with her,” she said.

Bruse said Lafferty and Hochsprung lived in Connecticut for years. Hochsprung graduated from Naugatuck High School there in 1983 and received a bachelor’s degree in special education from Central Connecticut State University in 1993, a master’s in special education from Southern Connecticut State University in 1997, and a sixth-year degree in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut in 1998. She became principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2010.

Bruse said Lafferty returned to the Broadalbin area several years ago, remodeling a relative’s home on Great Sacandaga Lake. Lafferty’s brother, Lester Kevin Pfeiffer, and sister, Sara Pfeiffer Schopmeier, live in Broadalbin.

Lafferty’s father, Edgar Lester “Let” Pfeiffer, owned E. Lester Pfeiffer Oil in Broadalbin. He died in 1973. Her mother, Geraldine “Gerry” Minkler Pfeiffer, of Lakeview Road, died May 16 at the age of 93.

Bruse said Hochsprung, who was 47, would come to Broadalbin often. “She had strong ties with the family.”

Bolibaugh said Lafferty was building a summer/retirement home in the town of Broadalbin. “I know some of the family personally. I know her uncle and aunt, who live in the area,” she said.

Bolibaugh said several family members indicated they will attend the vigil.

The idea for the candlelight vigil was Bruse’s, but Bolibaugh organized it, the two women said.

“I called Katie and said, ‘What about having a little vigil, a chain around the village for the family?’ ” Bruse said. “Katie said it sounded like a good idea and she ran with it,” she said.

Bolibaugh said the purpose of the vigil is to “honor all the victims, and especially Dawn.”

Bruse said the realization that Broadablin had a connection to the shooting crept up on people slowly. “I found out the night of the incident about who was involved and then everybody started calling and saying, ‘Is it true? Is it Cheryl’s daughter?’ ” she said.

The next thought was how to help the family through this time of tragedy and crisis, Bruse said.

“This is a small village and everybody knows everybody and they are always there when you need them,” she said. “The small village has ties to someone and when it hurts, it hurts everyone.”

Bruse said the “spur-of-the-moment project” has since become something bigger. More than 400 people have indicated on the Facebook page promoting the event that they will attend. People are asked to bring their own candles. Depending on the number of participants, the vigil chain will run from the Presbyterian church down Main Street to St. Joseph’s Church.

“It is so beautiful that people not knowing the family have called and said they want to partake in the event,” Bruse said. “Perhaps this is a way for people to express their concerns, their passion for the senseless tragedy.”

At one point during the vigil, two churches in the village will ring their bells simultaneously for each of the 26 victims.

For Bruse, the vigil will affect her spiritually. “I think, number one, there will be a door opened up in heaven and God will accept all these prayers for all these little kids who came to him, and the blessings for all these families will pour through the village and the love and prayers will find their way to Cheryl for the loss the family had during this holiday season.”

Hochsprung had other ties to the Capital Region. She had just begun her doctoral candidacy at Sage Graduate College in August, according to the college administration. She was enrolled in the doctoral program in education leadership.

“She was vibrant, full of life and loved her school community. She was truly a caring administrator,” said Lori V. Quigley, dean of the Esteves School of Education. “She had enrolled in the doctoral program because of her desire to expand her school leadership expertise.”

Hochsprung was one of five staff members at the school who died Dec. 14 inside the building along with 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7. Police said Adam Lanza, 20, broke into the school and killed nearly everyone he encountered until taking his own life when authorities arrived. He killed his mother prior to coming to the school.

Hochsprung died a hero, trying to take Lanza down when he entered the school’s main office, police said. She was shot in the leg and arm and died of her wounds. The principal is also believed to have switched on the loudspeaker system in the school to alert students and staff.

 
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