JAN. 8 ANNIVERSARY: Families choose to remember how loved ones lived, not how they died

JAN. 8 ANNIVERSARY: Families choose to remember how loved ones lived, not how they died

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A bookcase filled with newspapers, magazines and books that capture historic moments in the world sits in the home of B.J. Offutt.

They are collections from Phyllis Schneck, his late mother.

“I honestly think God said, ‘Phyllis, let’s take a ride,” Offutt said “My sister made the comment, I can just picture it, one minute she’s standing there and the next minute she’s up in heaven with Dad.”

Schneck was one of six people killed in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson in 2011.

“It didn’t occur to me it would happen to us,” said Ross Zimmerman.

Zimmerman remembers that day well. His son Gabe also died in the shooting.

“Earlier in the week I had asked Gabe if we could do anything on Saturday,” Ross said. “He said, ‘Well no, I’ve got a Congress on Your Corner event.’”

It was a day that changed their lives forever, and while there is no way to forget what happened, family members want them to be remembered not for how they died, but how they lived.

Phyllis Schneck, a person President Obama fittingly referred to as America’s grandma, was known to send recipes to a stranger in need, knit sweaters for school kids, sew aprons for others and raise money for first responders.

She quite literally, and figuratively, fed a village.

“Mom used to make over 120 dozen cookies every Christmas…six to eight different types of cookies,” Offutt said.

Schneck was an avid sewer and crafter, something shown in the January 8th Memorial. Her family doesn’t have a lot of the things she made, because she many of her projects were for others.

“She gave them all away!” said Phyllis Schneck Rautenberg, Phyllis Schneck’s daughter.

Ross said his son was a natural athlete who loved to be in nature. He said Gabe was the type of person to run to help, instead of running away.

He said Gabe just “had a way with people,” a talent that brought him to politics, to help serve his community.

Ross said his son inspired him to contribute and that he now heads a foundation.

“It started out with something very bad, but a lot of good things came from it,” Ross said.

The love Gabe and Phyllis showed, poured back ten-fold by the community with memorials and gifts.

“One person committed a horrendous act, and thousands of people responded with kindness and support,” said Rautenberg.

The families hope this—the impact that love has had in the last 10 years -- goes on for 10 more.

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