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CT School Shooting Victim’s Daughter: ‘She Taught Me How to Be Compassionate’

A memorial service will be held Thursday for Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

When the school day ended, Mary Sherlach didn’t stop helping people.

“She was a psychologist off the job,” said her daughter, Maura Schwartz, 27, of Deptford, NJ. “Any time my aunts needed someone to talk to, they called my mom. Any time a friend was in crisis, they called my mom. She did not take her (work) hat off. This wasn’t just a job for her; it was who she was. She was constantly wanting to help people.”

Sherlach, 56, was among 26 people—including 20 children—killed during a shooting rampage Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The shooter, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother and himself, authorities said. 

Sherlach, the school’s psychologist, has been hailed as a hero in the deadly shootings, and Maura Schwartz confirmed that her mother put herself in the line of fire.

Sherlach was in a meeting Friday morning with other staff members at the school when they heard glass breaking and ran into the hallway.

“It very quickly dawned on my mom what was happening, and she warned them back. My mom and Dawn warned those people back,” Schwartz said in an interview, referring to the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung

Hochsprung also died in the shooting.

Schwartz said that when her father, Bill, first heard about the shootings Friday, he knew his wife “wasn’t going to be cowering in the corner, she was going to do what she needed to do to protect those children. It does not surprise any of us that she would do such a heroic thing.”

Mary Sherlach passed her compassion for people on to her two daughters. Schwartz has a sister, Katy, 25.

“She taught me how be compassionate, to understand and get to know people, and I think that translated to me being a better teacher because of it,” said Maura Schwartz, who is a choral teacher and choir director at Salem High School in South Jersey. Katy Sherlach is a Ph.D candidate in chemistry at Georgetown University. 

Maura Schwartz's husband, Eric, is a regular freelancer for Patch, covering high-school sports in South Jersey. 

As the family prepares for a memorial service for Mary Sherlach on Thursday, and a funeral Friday, Maura Schwartz said one of the things that brings her comfort is remembering her mother’s joyfulness.

When there was rock music on in the house, especially a song by the Eagles, “she’d be dancing in her robe in the kitchen,” Maura Schwartz recalled. “She’d pull us in and start dancing with us.”

jackaroe December 20, 2012 at 02:46 PM
what an amazing soul. i'm sorry for your loss :(
Honesty December 20, 2012 at 04:31 PM
So sorry for your loss. She sounds like an amazing women who had so much to offer. I'm sure her humor and talents will be sorely missed by her family and the entire Sandy Hook Community.
Joanne OGara December 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Memories keep them alive in our hearts forever..Mary sounded like an incredible woman...peace and prayers to you and your family...
Trisha Larkin December 20, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Incredibly sorry for your loss. I'm sure there is little to offer at this point other than prayers and compassion. You're in our hearts and we wish you peace.
Opinionated December 20, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Your mother has taught us all how to be compassionate. We're all deeply sorry for your loss.
Rick Molinia December 21, 2012 at 12:42 AM
may it bring you peace to remember your Mother made her living by what she got paid but made her LIFE by what she GAVE
Abby House December 21, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Maura, your mother obviously inspired you with a love of music and a spirit of fun; it shows in all you do at camp with the Junior camp show and the awesome plays that you direct. The children respond with smiles and love - may you remember your mom's love and smiles that she shared with the world! Misheberach for all of Newtown love and strength from all who know and love you!
Heather O'Donnell December 22, 2012 at 01:13 PM
to all the families that are at sorrow in this world i send my prayers to you all jesus needed little helpers their safe and happy in the place thier in now families and friends will miss them but there right there with you as your new angels let them help you get stronger and let them be there to help you grief for them they never left you just left this horrible world promise they are in a happy place and safe
Michele Fultz February 11, 2013 at 03:22 AM
Many School Psychologists, like myself, have your family in their thoughts and prayers. I'm very happy to see that your community is so supportive and that a tribute will be left for you mother. God Bless all of you!

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