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Mary Sherlach, School Shooting Victim, Looked Ahead to Next Stage of Life

Sherlach was school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, the site of a deadly shooting rampage on Friday.

Mary Sherlach had looked forward to spending more time on Owasco Lake during her retirement. 

She and her husband, Bill, owned a cabin along the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. 

Mary Sherlach was one year away from retirement. 

But on Friday morning, her life ended in the second most deadly school shooting in American history. 

Sherlach, 56, was school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children. The gunman, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother, who was a teacher at the school, according to reports. He died in the rampage at the school, bringing the death toll to 28. 

Sherlach, who lived in Trumbull, had worked at the school for more than 20 years, said her son in law, Eric Schwartz, a freelance writer who covers high-school sports for Patch in South Jersey. 

Schwartz said by telephone Friday night that he and his wife, Maura, first learned of the shootings Friday morning after receiving a panicked phone call from Maura's sister, Katie. 

"She was saying 'turn on the news, turn on the news,' " Eric Schwartz recalled. 

At first, the couple was hopeful when a report indicated that only one person at the school had been shot, in the foot. But the news quickly turned grim. 

Broadcast reports confirmed that the school's principal and psychologist had been killed in the shootings. 

"It was a really helpless feeling," recalled Eric Schwartz, 27. "For about an hour, you try to say, 'they got it wrong, they got it wrong.' "

Eric and Maura Schwartz immediately drove to Connecticut from their home in Deptford, N.J. 

"I still don't think anyone's fully grasped it," Eric Schwartz said from the Sherlach family's home on Friday night. "It still doesnt' feel real. It's hard to wrap your head around it."

The family was still waiting for more details about the shooting that took Mary Sherlach's life, he said. 

'She wanted to help'

Mary Sherlach enjoyed her work at Sandy Hook, especially when she could get through to a struggling student.  

"She wanted to help kids get over their problems and go on to be successful," Eric Schwartz said. 

Mary Sherlach was an avid Miami Dolphins fan, and she could easily get riled up during a game, especially when her team wasn't performing well, her son-in-law recalled. He took good-natured ribbing from her for being a Buffalo Bills fan. 

"She was very sharp and she had a very nice sense of humor," Eric Schwartz said. "She was opiononated, but in a good way."

Now, Eric Schwartz said, Mary Sherlach's family is left to ponder all the what-ifs. 

"It’s not fair that she never gets to hold a grandchild.

She went from getting up and going to work like any other day, to ... gone."

Jennifer Marshall December 16, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Praying for Mary. She sounds like such a warm, caring woman whose life was taken too soon. There are no words. I have Mary and her family along with the other victims and their families and the community in my prayers.
Amy B. from Colorado December 16, 2012 at 03:37 AM
What a hero. How selfless and amazing. I pray for all of you and God forbid I should ever be faced with these circimstance, I hope He will give be the same courage and bravery to do what Mary did.
Patricia Giorgio December 16, 2012 at 04:24 AM
My family lived in Sandy Hook for seven years, from 1987 through 1995. My son had issues in second grade, and Mary tested him for learning disabilities. I am so sorry for your loss, after these many years I still remember her as being such a kind and generous person. Pat Giorgio Keene, NH
Philip mc carthy December 16, 2012 at 09:01 AM
I worked in the sandyhook area for many years and lived close by, a beatiful place where nothing ever happens, part of that beauty is now gone forever, rip to the herows who saved so many, and to all those little angels we love you, philip mc carthy, ireland.
James Dubrow December 17, 2012 at 09:08 PM
As a school psychologist who retired at age 55 after thirty years of service, I have a feeling that Mary would not have been able to stay away from her calling, her mission in life, for long. I was asked back after three years and could not have been happier. By all description, Mary had that special gift in relating to her students, parents, and school staff that would not have disappeared upon her retirement. She would have been back in some measure to keep giving to those for whom she cared. The fact that her final act of love in attempting to protect her students will prevent her from continuing to give is a sad loss for everyone in Newtown. Although tragically too short, Mary's life was well-lived. Jim Dubrow Dresser, WI

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