(ABC News) -- Though he was only in first grade, Daniel Barden was very much an “old soul,” his family said Monday. He was one of the 20 children who died Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
At the age of 4, he displayed an empathy for others remarkable for a child so young. It didn’t go unnoticed — teachers chose Daniel to be paired with a special education student at his school.
His mother, Jackie Barden, said she was always struck by “how unusual he was.”
“Our neighbors always said, ‘He’s like an old soul,’” Barden said during an interview on “Katie.”
He carried that kindness with him as he got older.
“He would hold doors open for adults all the time,” said his father, Mark Barden.
He laughed, remembering the times he’d be “halfway” across a parking lot and see his son still holding a door for strangers.
“Our son had so much love to give to this world,” Barden said. “He was supposed to have a whole lifetime of bringing that light to the world.”
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Daniel had two older siblings, James, age 12, and Natalie, age 10, who doted on their little brother.
“He was just so sweet and kind and thoughtful,” James said.
On Friday, 7-year-old Daniel, who was one of the 20 young victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School, woke up early. He played foosball with his mother.
As usual, Daniel won, she said. The score was 10 to 8.
His father also taught him how to play “Jingle Bells” on the piano that morning.
“We did a lot in that half hour,” he said.
A celebration of Daniel’s life will be held Tuesday at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church. A funeral is scheduled for Wednesday.