Dec. 17, 2012 By Christian Murray
Sunnyside residents are learning that two of the victims shot in Friday’s tragic mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school have deep ties to this neighborhood.
Benjamin Wheeler, 6, a first grader, who spent his early years in Sunnyside, was among the victims. His parents had lived here for many years.
Many residents’ children had known Ben’s older brother, Nate.
Ben’s mother, Francine Wheeler, was very active in the community–deemed one of the founders of the popular sunnymoms@yahoo group, as well as an active member of Sunnyside Gardens Park.
Francine is also known for her successful children’s singing career–while her husband, David, is known for his writing.
“Everyone is just devastated on a personal level, whether you knew them or not,” said Jimmy Van Bramer.
Van Bramer said one of the local moms had gone up to Connecticut to spend time with Francine, and that “Francine was aware of the messages of love from Sunnyside.”
Roger Hitts, a family friend, has organized a candlelight vigil with Van Bramer’s office for Tuesday night. The community will meet at Sunnyside Reformed Church at 6pm (corner of 48th and Skillman Ave) and then proceed to Sunnyside Gardens Park. The park is “where Ben’s parents Francine and David were such loved, valued members for several years.”
Meanwhile, the step sister of the principal of the school, Dawn Hochsprung (who threw herself in front of the gunman) also lives in Sunnyside. The vigil will pay respect to her family too–as well as all the victims of the shooting.