Newtown hero Anne Marie Murphy of Katonah laid to rest

Mourners, including Anne Marie Murphy's parents Alice and Mourners, including Anne Marie Murphy's parents Alice and Hugh McGowan at center, follow Murphy's casket after her funeral Mass at St. Mary's in Katonah. (Dec. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

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Anne Marie Murphy, the teacher who stirred a nation when she wrapped a 6-year-old boy in her arms as they both fell in a hail of bullets at a Newtown, Conn., school, was laid to rest in Katonah Thursday.

The 52-year-old special-education teacher was found dead with Dylan Hockley's body in her arms in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting rampage Dec. 14.

In a funeral Mass, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, compared her to Jesus, saying her life brought light to a world sometimes beset by wickedness.

"Like him, she has brought together a community, a nation, a world, now awed by her own life and death. Like Jesus, Annie's life and death brings light, truth, goodness and love to a world often shrouded in darkness, evil, selfishness and death," he said.

Murphy's body arrived in a hearse as bells pealed Thursday morning atop the white-steepled St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Katonah, just down the road from the cozy house where she was raised with six siblings.

A sad silence fell over hundreds crowding the entrance of the clapboard church on Valley Road in Katonah.

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The Mass began with words read from Proverbs, extolling the mother of four who died trying to save others:

"She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy . . . Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all . . . Honor her for all that her hands have done and let her works bring her praise."

The archbishop led the Mass, praising Murphy for her faith.

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Murphy's will be the only Sandy Hook service over which he will preside, said Joe Zwilling, the archbishop's spokesman.

"The cardinal wanted to be here to express his sympathy to this family in particular but by extension to all who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy," Zwilling said.

The specter of the Newtown tragedy played out as a Westchester police detective and two bomb-detecting dogs swept the church before the funeral.

Shortly before the funeral began, Thomas Newman of Katonah, Murphy's brother-in-law, read a statement to media outside the church on behalf of her family, including her parents, Hugh and Alice McGowan: "Pray for all the families touched so terribly that God may help these feelings of great pain and grief pass quickly, that they be replaced with only happy thoughts and joyous memories of those we have lost."

The parents of Dylan Hockley said Murphy's actions in the final moments of their son's life gave them solace.

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"We take great comfort in knowing that Dylan was not alone when he died, but was wrapped in the arms of his amazing aide, Anne Marie Murphy," Nicole and Ian Hockley, the boy's parents, said in a statement Monday. Murphy worked one-on-one with Dylan, who had special-education needs.

MOURNERS FIND STRENGTH FROM ONE ANOTHER

Diane Rothman Schwartz of Somers was one of about 100 who stood outside St. Mary of the Assumption as bursts of somber song wafted out the door.

She didn't know Murphy, she said, but wanted to pray with her parents "and to help their child become an angel."

"Perhaps . . . she is in a better place to watch over us and give us strength," Schwartz said.

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Beverly Marschke also was among those standing outside. She's known the McGowans for years -- Hugh McGowan was her dentist. Now her kids get their teeth cleaned by Murphy's brother, Thomas, who followed in his dad's footsteps.

"I prayed and consoled the people next to me, talked about the goodness of God," she said. "It didn't matter if you were inside or outside. It was enough just to be there."

Others who gathered in mourning included Murphy's Sandy Hook colleagues wearing green ribbons on their jackets and lapels. They came down in a yellow school bus with "Newtown" marked on the outside.

Following the hourlong service, Dolan filed out with a procession of priests and altar boys dressed in flowing white and cream robes, forming a holy phalanx next to the hearse. An anguished silence fell upon the neighborhood.

"Because of this whole horrific tragedy and the senselessness of it all, people have come in faith together," said the Rev. William Holt of Holy Innocence in Pleasantville, where Murphy's mother-in-law worships. "This has hurt the world."

SUCCESSION OF FUNERALS THURSDAY

Besides Murphy's service, there will be at least five other funerals and six wakes Thursday, in a heartbreaking procession of final farewells that began Monday for the 20 first-graders and six faculty members killed by gunman Adam Lanza, 20, at the Connecticut school.

Those being laid to rest Thursday are 6-year-olds Allison Wyatt, Benjamin Wheeler, Jesse Lewis, and Catherine Hubbard and 7-year-old Grace McDonnell. A memorial service will be held for teacher Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30. In addition, the families of 6-year-old Olivia Rose Engel, behavioral therapist Rachel Marie D'Avino and school psychologist Mary Sherlach have calling hours Thursday.

The sixth of the McGowans' seven children, Murphy was a "happy soul," said her mother, Alice McGowan, 86.

"She was a very good daughter, a good mother, a good wife," she told Newsday just hours after learning that her daughter was among the dead.

The McGowans said they have lived in Katonah, where Hugh McGowan was a dentist, since the 1950s.

For the past 14 years, Murphy was a resident of Sandy Hook, Conn., where she and husband Mike Murphy were raising their four children, Kelly, Colleen, Paige and Thomas, according to her obituary. She was a graduate of St. Mary's School in Katonah, which is part of the parish, and went on to John F. Kennedy High School in Somers before enrolling at Southern Connecticut State University, where she earned a master's degree in education.

"She will be remembered for her love of the arts, walks in the outdoors and most importantly, her family," noted the obituary.

Murphy also is survived by her siblings: Mary Pat, Alice, Catherine, Hugh, Thomas and Peter.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to Autism Speaks, a Princeton-based organization that can be found online at www.autismspeaks.org.

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