Trumbull resident Mary Sherlach is among the six Newtown educators killed in the school shooting honored last Friday by President Barack Obama with the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.
Her husband, William, and her two daughters, Maura Schwartz and Katy Sherlach, accepted a medal from the president during a ceremony in the White House.
“All six of these ladies were heroes day in and day out,” William Sherlach told The Times, “with all they had to deal with before this tragedy — budget cutbacks and daily challenges.”
The American Federation of Teachers, which represents Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers, said the six were posthumously awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal. Sherlach was honored with the other victims of the shooting, Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, and Victoria Soto.
William Sherlach, his daughters and his son-in-law attended the ceremony Friday.
“These educators, as well as many others, are deserving of the praise that was said that day,” William Sherlach said. “These six individuals were the ultimate first responders and the only equipment they had to protect the kids was themselves.”
Mary Sherlach, 56, was a school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Witnesses said she was in a meeting when the first shots rang out and attempted to subdue the killer.
William Sherlach’s goal now is to do good in his wife’s memory.
“I think we would all love a life of total obscurity, but given what went on, it’s not possible, and I’m going to try and put my effort forth to continue Mary’s work,” he said.
William Sherlach said he plans to continue her work in a few ways. One is through the Fairfield Community Foundation, which oversees a foundation in Mary Sherlach’s name, helping to get funding for kids who need mental health treatment.
“If you are very wealthy you can get what you need, and if you are very poor you can get what you need,” William Sherlach said. “If you fall right in the middle, there isn’t much help.”
The family has plans for local events in the near future to support the foundation, including a golf tournament at Tashua in June.
“We’ve had a good initial response to this foundation,” Sherlach said. “We want to facilitate one-on-one help for kids and teens who may not be able to get the mental health treatment they need.”
The Sherlach family also supports Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit committed to working to address the multifaceted issues that may have a part in such a horrific event.
“There are cultural and societal changes that need to occur in general, and it’s not just one piece of legislation,” he said.
Recently, the Town Council voted unanimously to rename the Trumbull Counseling Center in Old Mine Park the Mary Sherlach Counseling Center.
“Coming out of Dec. 14, you thought, Either the Mayans better be right and the world is ending in a week or there has to be some good to come out of it,” William Sherlach said.