An Irish American family have paid tribute to their hero daughter who died ‘serving children and serving God’ in the Connecticut school massacre.

Mother of four Anne Marie Murphy was shot dead by gunman Adam Lanza as she protected her pupils at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday morning.

The 52-year-old Katonah, New York native was shielding the bodies of students when Lanza opened fire on them in the tragedy which claimed 28 lives.

Her body was found on top of a group of children, desperately trying to save them.

Her grieving parents have paid tribute to their daughter in a moving interview with the New York Newsday publication.

Hugh told Newsday: “A first responder said she was a hero.”

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The sixth of seven children, Anne Marie’s parents described her as "artistic, a fun-loving painter, witty and hardworking."

Mum  Alice said: “She was a happy soul. She was a very good daughter, a good mother, a good wife.”

The McGowans, both 86, were looking forward to sharing Christmas with  Anne Marie and 36 fellow family members Now she is lost to them forever.

“We loved being together,” Alice McGowan stated in the Newsday interview.

Dad Hugh told the newspaper : “You don’t expect your daughter to be murdered. That’s sort of a shocker. It happens on TV; it happens elsewhere.”

Mum Alice revealed how she turned to prayer when it became apparent Anne Marie wasn’t going to come home from school on Friday and how they were waiting for word that never came. She said her first reaction was to grab her rosary when it was confirmed and to cry.

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She told the newspaper her daughter " died doing what she loved. She was serving children and serving God.”

The couple attended Saturday morning mass at the St. Mary’s of the Assumption church in Katonah.

The pastor Father Paul Waddell told Newsday: “I was preparing to pray at the start of Mass but I looked up and saw a lot of teary eyes.

“They told us about their daughter, that she was a teacher, she was killed in Connecticut. So we prayed at this 8 o’clock Mass for all of them and for her.”

The  family have asked that donations be sent to Autism Speaks, 1060 State Rd., 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ 08540 or donated online at