Poignant memories of six-year-old Dylan Hockley, who was killed in a school shooting in America were shared by his Peterborough family and friends during a moving memorial service yesterday (Wednesday, 19 December).
Much-loved Dylan was among 20 children shot dead by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Friday.
Dylan’s grandparents, Thomas and Ivy Hockley live in a village near Peterbrough and have worked as volunteers at Peterborough’s City and District Hospitals for over 30 years, pushing a sweets trolley around the wards there.
Dylan would regularly talk to his grandparents on Skype and had visited them in Eastrea on a number of occasions before moving to America with his parents Ian and Nicole Hockley and brother Jake (8) in 2011.
A memorial service for Dylan was held at Peterborough City Hospital’s Chapel.
The service was organised by Wendy Lutkin and Joyce Jackson, the sisters of Thomas Hockley, and was held to coincide with Dylan’s funeral in America on the same day.
The service, which was conducted by the hospital’s Chaplain Helen Fyall, saw prayers and tributes read out and Mrs Lutkin and Mrs Jackson lit candles in memory of Dylan and the 25 other victims of the shooting.
Speaking after the service, Mrs Lutkin said: “The service was very moving and well-conducted.
“The last few days have been very tough for us. I would like to thank everyone who turned up to the service and all our friends who have offered their support.”
Mrs Jackson added: “Thomas and Ivy are very well-known at the hospital. We thought it would be nice for us and their friends to come together to pay tribute.
“Obviously Thomas and Ivy are devastated by what has happened. They have gone out to America to be with Ian, Nicole and Jake.”
Speaking during the service, Helen Fyall said: “It is difficult to find the words to express how you feel right now.
“And when such situations involve people you know it is so much more difficult.
“No-one could have imagined that Dylan, the grandson of Ivy and Thomas, would lose his life in such a tragic and horrific way. That day, innocence, vitality, potential, light, love and joy were all taken away in the space of just a few minutes.
“Dylan was a special part of your family and he will be forever treasured by you all.
“All I can do is offer you God’s love and his comfort in these difficult days.”
A minute’s silence was also held in memory of Dylan and a book of remembrance has been opened in the hospital’s chapel.
Meanwhile, Dylan’s aunt Judith Hockley, who also lives in Peterborough, spoke to the Peterborough Telegraph of her family’s grief at the tragedy.
Mrs Hockley said that the last time she had spoken to Dylan’s parents they had told her how much they were looking forward to spending Christmas with their children.
She said: “Dylan was a typical six-year-old boy. He was confident and happy and loved his family.
“He had been to Peterborough a number of times before leaving for America and whenever I saw him he was smiling and full of energy.
“Dylan was enjoying life in America and had made many new friends there.
“He enjoyed going to school and had really settled in well, he had started a martial arts class and really liked that.
“His parents and older brother Jake were also enjoying their new life in Newtown, it sounded like such a nice place.
“When I last spoke to them they were looking forward to spending Christmas together.”
Mrs Hockley added that the family were “devastated” by Dylan’s death.
She said: “My husband and daughter have flown out to be with them. They don’t have return tickets so will stay as long as they can.
“The last few days have been very traumatic for us all. I still can’t believe what has happened. There is such a big void in our family now.”
Mrs Hockley said that she and her husband had heard that “something was up” on Friday evening from a family member.
The couple then waited into the early hours of Saturday morning before the news came through that Dylan had been killed.
Mrs Hockley said: “We knew the boys went to that school.
“We were all waiting by the phone, then we heard confirmation very early on Saturday morning.
“The family are understandably heartbroken.
“Dylan was wonderful to be around and will be sorely missed by his brother, parents and immediate family.
“He was gorgeous and I’ve never known brothers like him and Jake – they were best mates.”
Dylan’s father Ian was born and grew up in the Peterborough area before going to the University of East Anglia to study finance.
It was while he was studying there that he met his American wife Nicole, now 42, who was studying as part of an exchange programme with a college in Connecticut.
The couple decided to move to America for a better quality of life and so they could be closer to Nicole’s parents.
Ian Hockley has worked in financial planning at IBM for more than a decade.
Nicole Hockley, who runs a small marketing firm and worked for Norwich Union in the UK, described Newtown as a “wonderful place to live and we’re looking forward to being here for a long, long time”.
Lying about 60 miles north of New York in the state of Connecticut, leafy Newtown has proved very popular with people from the UK who have moved to the US.
There is even a shop, UK Gourmet, dedicated to selling British produce.