Josephine Grace "Joey" Gay, a 7-year-old child born in Columbia who died Dec. 14 in the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, was recalled by her family for her "indomitable" spirit, love of the color purple and her generosity.
In a statement released Thursday, her father, Robert "Bob" Gay, and her mother, the former Michele Hartman, acknowledged the "love and kindness pouring in." They said, "We see how evil is defeated."
They said their daughter was "autistic and severely apraxic." Apraxia is "a neurological disorder characterized by loss of the ability to execute or carry out skilled movements and gestures," according to the National Institutes of Health.
"She could not speak, yet she touched the lives of so many around her — teachers, therapists, friends, neighbors, all loved and cherished her," her family said. "Joey was social and affectionate. She smiled, she loved hugs and she even had a wonderful sense of humor. Her spirit was indomitable."
They said the family has established Joey's Fund through the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism in Boston to help families raising autistic children.
Born in Columbia, Joey moved to Connecticut with her family four years ago after living in Howard County. Her mother had taught second grade at Hollifield Station Elementary School in Ellicott City. Her father was a 1978 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School in Towson.
The family said Joey had her seventh birthday three days before the attack at the school that took the lives of many of her classmates. "She was looking forward to celebrating at her birthday party with many of these friends the next day," they said.
Her family said she underwent daily "rigorous therapy and treatment ... without complaint." They said she played with Barbie dolls, used an iPad and computer, and swam.
They said that Joey loved "all things purple" because "she grew up in a family of Ravens fans."
"She rarely left the house without wearing something purple," according to her family.
The Ravens team representative said in a statement, "The Gay family and the entire Newtown community are in our thoughts and prayers, as we extend our heartfelt condolences to all of those affected by this tragedy. Joey will forever be a part of our Ravens family."
Ravens player Torrey Smith wrote on his Twitter page on Thursday, "RIP Josephine Grace Gay."
The family said that "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."
They said that while they were "protecting our family's privacy during this time of healing," they felt "it was important to share some of Joey's story. It will help us if others know what a special person she was and how she inspired everyone she met."
The family said that by establishing a memorial fund in her name, "We will not let this tragedy define her life. Instead, we will honor her inspiring and generous spirit."
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn. The family asked that people who want to honor Joey wear purple on Saturday.
In addition to her parents and sisters Sophia and Marie, survivors include her maternal grandmother, Katherine Hartman; paternal grandfather, Robert Gay; and paternal grandmother, Louise Gay.