Newtown, CT, USA
Student, Sandy Hook Elementary School
12/14/2012, Newtown, CT, USA
Not too long ago, 6-year-old Catherine Violet Hubbard designed business cards for herself, and her father ordered a box of them. The borders on the pink cards have what look like fabric samples: zebra print, leopard print and floral. In fancy and girlish script, the cards introduce “Catherine’s Animal Shelter” and list the first-grader as “Care Taker.”
Catherine handed out some of the cards to people at school. Her teacher loved them, recalls her mom, who knew well her daughter’s fascination with pets and wildlife. She would squeal with delight as butterflies fluttered and landed on her. She would watch baby birds in a nest for hours. She would wriggle her hands into garden soil and play with worms. She would whisper to insects, “Tell all your friends I’m kind.”
“Catherine would always say, ‘They’re going to tell their friends that we’re kind, and they’ll all come back,'” said her mom, Jenny Hubbard.
She and her husband Matt Hubbard plan to make their daughter’s dream real. It might bring a sense of healing for her family, still trying to find their way since losing Catherine. She was among 20 students and six educators killed in the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
When the Hubbards, who are both 40, sat down to write Catherine’s obituary, they found themselves writing about her fondest interests, especially animals. It sounds “nutty,” her mother explains, but she believes Catherine’s spirit guided them to The Animal Center in Newtown. Instead of sending flowers, they asked people to donate to the animal center.
This past week, the Hubbards announced plans for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary, a place for student field trips and for families to come see farm animals and cuddle rescued pets.
Caring For Creatures
The Hubbards talked this week about their lives since mid-December — about a closet full of Catherine’s Christmas presents, their strong family ties to Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, letters from around the world and their memories. When the family fished at Lake Zoar, Catherine always kissed the fish before putting them back in the water. She would hold her bunny, Flopsy, and talk to her. And, of course, there was the way Catherine cared for Samantha, the family’s aged, arthritic yellow-lab mix.
Catherine often tried to help Samantha to her feet, even though the dog was heavier than her.
“Catherine was always there picking her up,” said Catherine’s father, Matt. Jenny added, “This little thing would be lifting the dog up. You’d look out back. She’d have play dates over. She’d have the girls over. You’d look out the back window, and they were training Sammy” to do new tricks, coaxing her to leap over a stick across cinder blocks like a steeple-chase hurdle.
Samantha didn’t live much beyond Catherine. The dog’s health had been deteriorating quickly and the Hubbards had decided before Dec. 14 to have Samantha euthanized after Christmas, because they didn’t want to put a damper on the holiday.
Christmas is much more than Santa Claus for the Hubbards, who are Catholic and are involved in their church. Jenny has taught CCD, which is religious education for children. Christmas is the birth of Jesus, and it’s a happy occasion. Still, Catherine’s gifts remain in the closet.
“We haven’t touched them only because we know that there’s going to be something that we’re going to need to do with them,” Jenny said. “And that time will come, but we’re not pushing it.”
Two days after Christmas, the Hubbards explained to their 8-year-old son, Frederick, that the family dog was going to the veterinarian.
“Matt said to him, ‘Do you want to say good-bye to Sammy because she may not be coming home with us.’ So, he gets down on the floor, and he looks at her, and he says, ‘Tell her I said, ‘Hi.'”
“He’s telling the dog to tell Catherine … hi,” his mother said.