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Slain Connecticut principal's husband left with future that no longer makes sense

By Gary Tuchman and Jethro Mullen, CNN
December 17, 2012 -- Updated 1411 GMT (2211 HKT)
  • Dawn Hochsprung was principal of the school were 26 people were massacred
  • Her husband says he never imagined he would outlive her
  • He says he was initially angry she had put herself in danger by confronting the gunman
  • But now he says, "I'm not angry. I'm just very sad"

(CNN) -- George Hochsprung's world began to crumble Friday when one of the students at the Connecticut middle school where he works walked up to him.

Something was happening at the elementary school less than 10 miles away where Hochsprung's wife was principal, the student said, holding a computer. There were reports his wife had been killed.

Hochsprung rushed out of the building, one of dozens of family members of students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, desperately seeking information about their loved ones that day.

His wife, Dawn, was in a meeting that morning when a 20-year-old local man blasted his way into the elementary school armed with three guns. She stepped out of the meeting to find out what was going on and never returned.

She was among the 26 people shot and killed inside the school by the gunman, Adam Lanza, who then turned a weapon on himself. Twenty of the dead were children.

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As people across the world struggle to comprehend Lanza's atrocious acts, George Hochsprung has been left with a future that no longer makes sense.

He is more than 20 years older than his wife, who was 47 when she died. He never imagined he would outlive her.

"Dawn and I built this beautiful house in the Adirondacks, our dream," he said in an interview Sunday night, sitting on a couch surrounded by his three daughters and one of his stepdaughters.

"It was going to be Dawn's house because I was going to die," he said, explaining that they had included extra rooms in the house, so that their children and grandchildren could come keep his wife company after he was gone.

"And now it's me," he said. "I don't think I can do that."

He is now leaning on the support of their children and 11 grandchildren, but even that seems incongruous to him.

"My job has always been to take care of other people," he said.

Slain principal remembered as energetic, positive, passionate

Fittingly for two people who had made their careers in education, the couple met at a school, Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, Connecticut. It's the same school where he was working Friday.

He was a good deal older when they met, but she was his superior in the school hierarchy: She was an assistant principal, and he was a seventh-grade math teacher.

"I just fell in love with her," he said. But it took a little while for him to persuade her to marry him: "She turned me down five times."

Once he won her over, their wedding was influenced by their mutual love of sailing, taking place on a boat at sea near the Connecticut port of Mystic a decade ago.

They had both been married previously, and their union brought together three daughters on his side and two on hers.

One of her two daughters, Erica, described a devoted mother.

"Every practice, she was there," she said. "All of my sister's cheerleadering stuff, she was there. Every dance competition. She was doing homework on the bleachers, but she was there. And she was my rock."

Dawn Hochsprung's commitment to her family was closely matched by her dedication to her students, according to friends and family members.

"She was really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense," according to Tom Prunty, a friend, whose niece goes to Sandy Hook and was uninjured Friday. "She was the kind of person you'd want to be educating your kids. And the kids loved her."

Her decision to step out into danger when the shooting began has left her husband with some difficult emotions.

"Dawn put herself in jeopardy, and I have been angry about that," he said.

But that changed Sunday, he said, when he met two teachers who told him that his wife had instructed them to take shelter while she confronted Lanza.

"She could've avoided that," George Hochsprung said. "But she didn't; I knew she wouldn't. So, I'm not angry anymore."

His voice wavering, he continued: "I'm not angry. I'm just very sad."

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