Conn. victims: Lively youngsters, devoted adults

Thursday - 12/20/2012, 11:01am EST

By The Associated Press

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - At the very start of their lives, the schoolchildren are remembered for their love of horses, or for the games they couldn't get enough of, or for always saying grace at dinner. The adult victims found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. The gunfire Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School left a toll both unbearable and incalculable: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

A glimpse of some of those who died:

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CHARLOTTE BACON, 6

They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Dec. 14, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the new pink dress and boots to school.

It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out. Charlotte's older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot.

Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, had lived in Newtown for four or five years, JoAnn's brother John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minn., told Newsday.

"She was going to go some places in this world," Hagen told the newspaper. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."

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DANIEL BARDEN, 7

Daniel's family says he was "fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life."

He was the youngest of three children and in a statement to the media, his family said Daniel earned his missing two front teeth and ripped jeans.

"Words really cannot express what a special boy Daniel was. Such a light. Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy," the family said.

His father, Mark, is a local musician. The New Haven Register reported the father had been scheduled to play a show at a restaurant Friday in Danbury that was later canceled.

On the biography on his professional website, Mark Barden lists spending time with his family as his favorite activity.

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RACHEL D'AVINO, 29

Days before the Connecticut shooting rampage, Rachel D'Avino's boyfriend had asked her parents for permission to marry her.

D'Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school, according to Lissa Lovetere Stone, a friend who is handling her funeral planned for Friday.

D'Avino's boyfriend, Anthony Cerritelli, planned to ask her to marry him on Christmas Eve, Lovetere Stone said.

Lovetere Stone said she met D'Avino in 2005 when D'Avino was assigned to her son, who has autism, in their town of Bethlehem, Conn. D'Avino, 29, was so dedicated she would make home visits and frequently offer guidance on handling situations such as helping her son deal with loud music at a wedding.

"Her job didn't end when the school bell rang at 3 o'clock," Lovetere Stone said.

Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.

"I'm heartbroken. I'm numb," Lovetere Stone said. "I think she taught me more about how to be a good mother to a special needs child than anyone else ever had."

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OLIVIA ENGEL, 6

Images of Olivia Rose Engel show a happy child, one with a great sense of humor, as her family said in a statement. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. Or swinging a pink baseball bat, posing on a boat, or making a silly face.

Olivia loved school, did very well in math and reading, and was "insightful for her age," said the statement released by her uncle, John Engel.

She was a child who "lit up a room and the people around her." Creative with drawing and designing, she was also a tennis and soccer player and took art classes, swimming, and dance lessons in ballet and hip hop. A Daisy Girl Scout, she enjoyed musical theater.

"She was a great big sister and was always very patient with her 3-year-old brother, Brayden," her family said, recalling that her favorite colors were purple and pink.

Olivia was learning the rosary and always led grace before the family dinner. "She was a grateful child who was always appreciative and never greedy," the family said.

Her father said she was a 6-year-old who had a lot to look forward to.

Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, recalled that she loved attention, had perfect manners and was a teacher's pet.

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