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Solemn Evening for Sunnyside Residents Who Knew Sandy Hook Victims

Photo: QueensPost

Dec. 19, 2012 By Bill Parry

Hundreds of Sunnyside residents took part in a tearful candlelight vigil Tuesday night to honor the lives of two victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy with strong ties to the neighborhood.

The community paid tribute to Benjamin Wheeler, 6, and Dawn Hochsprung, 47, the school principal, who were both killed in the massacre.

Ben lived in Sunnyside as an infant before his popular parents—Francine and David Wheeler– moved to Newtown with his older brother, Nate. Meanwhile, Hochsprung’s sister-in-law is a Celtic Park resident.

Small children, accompanied by their mothers, were out in big numbers last night, with several carrying photos of Ben and the Wheeler family. The Wheeler family remains close to many young families in the neighborhood.

The vigil began at Sunnyside Reformed Church, where the Wheelers were participants of the church’s day-care programs. It then proceeded to Sunnyside Gardens Park, where the family was active for several years.

At the park, close friends and mothers spoke about Wheelers and the tragedy–providing each other with words of comfort.  Religious leaders said prayers on behalf of the Wheelers, Dawn Hochsprung and all the victims.

Gretchen Armstrong, a Sunnyside resident who is particularly close to the Wheelers, read a letter from Ben’s mother Francine.

“Sunnyside was our first home as a family, and we will never forget the good times we shared, the friendships that blossomed and most of all, the love and laughter that surrounded us,” the letter said. “Please remember Ben’s smile while you go about your daily lives.”

Armstrong went up to Connecticut when she received the news of tragedy on Friday night. She is a close friend of Francine, as both women helped form Sunnymoms, an online network for young families in the community. Francine, a well-known children’s singer, was also known for entertaining local children.

Roger Hitts, another family friend from Sunnyside, played a recording of Francine singing “Come Sit Beside Me.” In his words of remembrance, Hitts spoke of a central theme of the gathering: “We’re shocked, saddened and devastated. We’re very, very angry.”

Meanwhile, Nicole Perkins Isleib, the step-sister of Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of the school who died trying to save the lives of her students, spoke about the bravery of her step-sister. “Everything you heard about her in the news is true,” the Celtic Park resident said. “She died trying to help the children.”

Hochsprung is being buried today (Wednesday).

Neil Margetson, the pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church, said, “There’s no way to make sense of all this but it was not an act of God, we’ve created these monsters and we have to find a way to fix it.” 

Meanwhile, councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, whose staff helped organize the vigil, said, “We’re so lucky and fortunate to live in a neighborhood with so many good people who love their friends so deeply. The Sunnymoms have so much love for David and Francine and I’m touched by this turnout on just 24 hours notice.”

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Sorry, all the women stoned for their sultry eyes are buried or not speaking to infidels, but I think its well known that this is a common thing in those lands where an old barbaric religion rules the politics.

thus…America having the higher moral authority comment. unless you disagree and you think keeping women covered in sacks is really the best thing for a society


Last night on the 1010 radio news station, I heard a revolting new word that I hope does not become part of the English language. “Funeralize,” used thusly: “Tomorrow, two more victims of the Newton tragedy will be funeralized.”


@Ruben, tell that to the families of all the kids killed in drone attacks and other “collateral damage” in various other occupied countries. I realize that there are barbaric practices in many of these countries but slaughtering their children from the skies with high tech weapons isn’t exactly the way to demonstrate the moral high ground.


The US has killed 168 kids in drone attacks in Pakistan. A country we are not even at war with.

obama is the commander in chief, so he is responsible. When he feigned grief for the kids in Connecticut, I just couldn’t buy the act.

People in this country need to respect all human life, especially when the US struts the globe pretending to be some higher moral authority.


We are not one nation.
If we were,We would collectively understand that buying more guns right after a tragedy is not the answer.
We would understand that crazy nutjobs need to be in a padded cell.
We would understand the value of human life.
We are not one nation.
We just cover up our problems with old glory.


This was a monstrous act of violence. Hopefully, we pray ….one that will never occur again. Let us also remember the struggle faced by Israeli children, sitting in bomb shelters as rockets rain down upon them. No child anywhere should have to live in fear. My heart goes out to the people of Sandy Hook


Can we get some armed guards up in ps.150? Seriously, if they told me It would cost me some money every month to afford armed guards and a solid after school tutoring program I would PAY, the PTA does NOTHING.


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