Rachel D'avino

Days before the Connecticut shooting rampage, the boyfriend of Rachel D’Avino had asked her parents for permission to marry her.

D’Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school where she was killed, according to Lissa Lovetere Stone, a friend who is handling her funeral planned for Friday. D’Avino’s boyfriend, Anthony Cerritelli, planned to ask her to marry him on Christmas Eve, Lovetere Stone said.

“Her job didn’t end when the school bell rang at 3 o’clock,” Lovetere Stone said.

Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.

“I’m heartbroken. I’m numb,” Lovetere Stone said. “I think she taught me more about how to be a good mother to a special needs child than anyone else ever had.”

She was also the sort of older sister you looked up to, said Sarah D’Avino. She was a selfless and determined young woman who excelled at everything and always gave her all.D’Avino was recalled as a woman on the rise. She was pursuing her doctorate at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, with a goal of specializing in helping autistic children.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Autism Speaks, 1 East 33rd Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10016.

Rachel D'AvinoRachel Marie D’Avino was described by her family as a “true hero” who died “protecting the children she loved so dearly.”