(NEWTOWN, Conn.) -- Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung devoted her life to helping students as an educator.
In her final moments, Hochsprung, 47, reportedly gave her life Friday to save the lives of countless students and teachers when she sprung from a conference room at the sound of gunshots and confronted head-on the armed shooter who had barged into the school.
“When I learned that she actually tried to take the gunman down, it was no surprise to me at all,” Hochsprung’s cousin, Melanie Buhrmaster-Bunch, said Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“My only hope is that the gunman actually had a little bit of fear knowing this 5-foot-2-inch raging bull was coming at him, that he had a little bit of fear in his eyes that knowing that someone like Dawn was going to come after him because he was trying to hurt her students,” she said. “She was so vibrant and so full of life and I want people to know that she was a hero.”
The memory of Hochsprung as a hero is now providing comfort to the family and friends she leaves behind, including Buhrmaster-Bunch, a husband, two daughters and three stepdaughters, four grandchildren and the countless lives she touched as principal at Sandy Hook since 2010.
“I don’t want to have a conversation like that with my kids,” her son-in-law, Ryan Hassinger, said of telling his four children that their grandmother had died. “But being able to tell them that she saved a lot of children and was able to warn everyone and she saved a lot of lives, so she’s a hero.”
Hassinger’s wife, Tina, Hochsprung’s daughter, tweeted a photo of President Obama holding the couple’s 6-month-old daughter before he spoke at the memorial in Newtown, Conn., Sunday night.
Hassinger says instances of people’s singing Hochsprung’s praises, even in the most unlikely of circumstances, were not an unusual occurrence for her family to endure happily.
“I had taken my kids for a hike one night, and we were sitting and eating and another lady came by with a T-shirt on that was from one of her old schools,” he said. “We were just chatting about Dawn and, ‘Oh, she’s so nice’ and, you know, I’m in the middle of the woods.”
“She treated my kids like gold,” he said. “I’m sure she treated all of her students that way. She’s just a joy.”
An award-winning principal who was reportedly pursuing a doctorate degree, Hochsprung had made increasing school security a priority in her two years at Sandy Hook while also maintaining a sense of fun and wonder in the elementary school, including transforming herself into the “Sandy Hook Book Fairy” to encourage reading.
“I would say anyone who is planning on being a teacher, read the life of Dawn Hochsprung because she was the ideal, the epitome of what teaching is and what a teacher is supposed to be,” cousin Buhrmaster-Bunch said. “She loved her students so much and, obviously, enough to die for them.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio