The parents of Josephine Grace Gay, 7, remembered their daughter as a smiling, affectionate little girl who had an indomitable spirit and loved hugs, in a statement released Thursday.
Josephine, who was born in Columbia and lived in Howard County for three years before moving to Newtown, CT, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting on Friday, Dec. 14. Her father Robert Gay was a 1978 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School in Towson.
Josephine had turned seven three days before the shooting and was looking forward to celebrating her birthday with her friends the day after the shooting, said her parents.
"Josephine loved the color purple," wrote Robert and Michele Gay. "Born in Maryland, she grew up in a family of Ravens fans and developed an affinity for all things purple. She rarely left the house without wearing something purple. After her passing, many friends who visited wore purple clothing to honor her. On Saturday a family friend tied purple balloons on the mailboxes on our street, and on Sunday the neighborhood children and her sisters and cousins released purple balloons with written messages of love to her in heaven."
Josephine, who her parents called Joey, was autistic and severly apraxic.
"She could not speak, yet she touched the lives of so many around her: teachers, therapists, neighbors, all loved and cherished her," wrote her parents. "Joey was social and affectionate; she smiled, she loved hugs, and she even had a wonderful sense of humor. Her spirit was indomitable."
In the statement, Joey's parents said they were comforted in the knowledge she is no longer scared.
"Our innocent, trusting little girl stared into the face of unimaginable evil and overcame it in Christ," wrote her parents. "She was not alone in her courage.
"Neighbors, religious communities, townspeople, and professionals are providing the care and love that we are so in need of now. We see this movement grow daily with acts of love and kindness pouring in from around the country and the world. We see how evil is defeated."
Josephine's parents asked that anyone interested in providing help or support can make a donation to Joey's Fund through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
Editor Nayana Davis contributed to this report.