NJ Woman, 79, Among 6 Killed in Arizona Attack

Targeted Congresswoman remains hospitalized in critical condition after being shot in the head

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCNewYork/Getty Images
    Phyllis Schenk (inset) was among the six slain the alleged assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona.

    A woman who once called New Jersey home was among the half a dozen people slain when an erratic 22-year-old gunman opened fire during a public event for Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords outside a Tucson grocery store over the weekend.

    Phyllis Schneck, 79, a retiree living in Tucson, lost her life in the fusillade of gunfire discharged from a weapon in an alleged assassination attempt on the 40-year-old Democratic representative.

    Giffords, who remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at a local hospital, suffered a bullet to the brain. Doctors are cautiously optimistic about her prognosis, citing the trajectory of the bullet.

    The suspected shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, is due to appear in court for the first time today. He faces charges of attempted assassination, first-degree murder and attempted murder in the melee that wounded 14 and killed six, including Schneck.

    While she spent most of her time in Tucson, Schneck spent her summer months in New Jersey with her husband, Ernie, and their children.

    Even after Ernie died four years ago, Schneck returned to the Green Pond section of Rockaway Township each summer to revel in the warmth of her three children, seven grandchildren and great granddaughter, reports the Daily Record.

    Before Ernie Schneck die of mesothelioma in January 2007, he and his wife were active members of the Oak Ridge Presbyterian Church. They graduated from high school together at the Rutherford High School and lived for years in the nearby Montville.

    After retiring, the Schnecks split their time between Green Pond and Montville before selling the Montville home and spending most of their days in Tucson, according to the Record. But in Montville, friends and community members fondly remember the woman that inspired them to give back to their community.

    Friends and residents told Patch in Scotch Plains that Schneck actively participated in the Montville Women's Club at a state and local level.

    "She was the one that always kept everyone on their toes," former president and current club member Terry Cavanaugh told Patch. "She was very passionate. To put it simply, she was a lovely lady."

    Schneck's daughter, B.J. Offut, was unconcerned about her mother when she first heard about the shooting in Tucson. Offut told the Record her mother was a registered Republican who had taken a liking to Giffords, but she didn't think she would have been the sort to show up to a political gathering.

    A tragic phone call told her she was wrong.

    "I'm at a total loss. I've been up since 8 o'clock yesterday morning and drove 12 hours to get down here," Offutt told the Record from Tucson. "I know there's a lot of people up there that knew her and are going to really, really miss her. She had a heart of gold."

    Also slain in the shoot-out was young Christina Taylor-Green, the 9-year-old granddaughter of former Mets and Yankees manager Dallas Green. 

    Christina was born on September 11, 2001 and developed a strong interest in politics at a young age.  She was attending the rally with her neighbor to get a closer look at political life and to meet Congresswoman Giffords, friends said.

    Her grandfather, Dallas Green, is a former pitcher and manager in the major leagues. He's an executive adviser for the Phillies, the team he managed to the World Series championship in 1980. He also managed the New York Yankees in 1989 and the New York Mets from 1993 to 1996.

    "I just want her memory to live on, she's a face of hope, a face of change," Roxanna Green told MSNBC today. "Stop the violence, stop the hatred."