James Radley Mattioli used to be first in his family to wake up each morning, ready to go to school with his adored older sister, Anna.
“He couldn’t wait to do everything she (Anna) could do,” the Mattioli family said in James’ obituary. “He loved diving and riding his bike, proudly, without training wheels. He loved his teachers, excelled in math and was working with his sister to improve his reading and vocabulary.”
Six-year-old James was at his Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, on the morning of December 14, 2012 when a gunman walked in and shot and killed him and 19 other children and six adults there.
James’ joy and enthusiasm were infectious.
“I knew him as the little boy with the 1,000-watt smile,” a neighbor said.
One way he showed his enthusiasm was with his singing, which he did at the top of his lungs. “How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?” he once asked.
The family said James was born four weeks early, the joke being that it was because he was hungry.
“He loved hamburgers with ketchup, his dad’s omelets with bacon and his mom’s French toast. He wanted to know how old he had to be to order a foot-long sandwich at Subway.”
The spitting image of his father, James loved spending time with him, doing yard work, walking at Fairfield Hills and grilling burgers on the deck. At the end of the day, he would cuddle on the couch with his mom and his brown fleece blanket.
James loved to dive off the diving board at the Treadwell Pool, swim like a fish in both of his grandparents’ pools and ride his bike, proudly without training wheels. He often said, “I need to go outside Mom, I need fresh air.”
He wore shorts and T-shirts in any weather and loved spiking his hair with gel. He played baseball and basketball, liked to arm wrestle and immersed himself in games on the iPad, especially a lawn-mowing game.
The family also said James loved all teachers and staff at the Trinity Day School and Sandy Hook Elementary and found special joy in math and recess.
“He was a ‘numbers’ guy, coming up with insights beyond his years to explain the relationship between numbers and unique ways of figuring out the answer when adding or subtracting. He loved the concept of ‘googleplex’ which he learned from his good friend Christopher. He spent endless hours playing hockey with his best bud and cousin, George.”
For Christmas 2012, he decided to forgo a gift, using the money to buy a mug for his grandfather.
“James always wanted to know when he would be old enough to do something,” Monsignor Robert Weiss said at the six-year-old’s eulogy.
“Now everyday is a homerun, a three-point shot, the perfect dive and there are no more training wheels,” the pastor said.
* Adapted by the neverforget.com team from The Wall Street Journal’s tribute for Sandy Hook victims and James Mattioli’s obituary on legacy.com and twentysixbells.com .