by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
There was cake and balloons and many guests, including Thorin the puggle.
Although it wasn’t the way Rich Leotta and Marcia Goldman envisioned their son Noah’s 26th birthday, they were happy to see him remembered.
While working on the Holiday Alcohol Task Force in December 2015, Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Aaron Leotta was struck by a car driven by an Olney man who police say had a blood alcohol content of .22, nearly three times the legal limit of .08. Leotta died a week later.
“It’s a hard day, but we are going to celebrate his life and not dwell on his death,” Rich Leotta said. “We all love Noah and love never dies.”
In addition to Noah’s family, friends and dog, many police officers and elected officials — referred to by Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger as the “who’s who of Olney and the state of Maryland” — were part of the crowd that gathered at the fountain at Fair Hill shopping center on June 7.
The Olney Chamber of Commerce and Fair Hill, owned by Carl M. Freeman Companies, unveiled a memorial plaque to honor Noah Leotta.
“We are honored and touched that the Olney Chamber and [Carl M.] Freeman properties have enthusiastically agreed to display a plaque recognizing Noah’s service and sacrifice and that will remind people, ‘Don’t Drink and Drive,’” Rich Leotta said.
He said the plaque was commissioned by a benefactor to recognize Noah’s service and sacrifice and who also helped to establish the Officer Noah A. Leotta Foundation (www.officernoahaleottafoundation.org) to help prevent drunken driving.
The plaque features a photo of Noah and Thorin, taken by a friend while at Great Falls.
Rich Leotta said the photo of Noah not in uniform was chosen to represent all the victims of drunk drivers.
Montgomery County Police Capt. Laura Lanham, commander of the 4th District, which encompasses Olney, said the plaque was originally supposed to be placed in Rockville. While some were initially disappointed that it did not work out, Lanham said she believed it was “meant to be.”
“Olney is where Noah grew up, graduated from high school, and where he patrolled,” she said. “This was home and it meant so much to him.”
Manger said he had been reflecting on the event the past few weeks.
“I was thinking how lovely it is that we have this tribute to Noah in Olney,” he said. “We dedicated the portion of Georgia Avenue to him and I love the fact that folks driving down Georgia Avenue see that sign. But this is so wonderful for everybody. This not only honors Noah and the Leotta family, but recognizes that he is a son of Olney. I think this is so meaningful.”
During County Executive Isiah Leggett’s remarks, he said, “Noah Leotta would always be a hero here in Olney and in Montgomery County.”
State Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Dist. 14) said his two children play at the fountain at Fair Hill and will look up to see the plaque honoring Noah Leotta.
“I hope they aspire to be as humble and committed to public service as Noah was,” he said. “The memory of Noah Leotta is alive and well.”
During the event, the Chamber of Commerce announced that Alison Wright of Sherwood High School is the winner of the Officer Noah Leotta Act Responsibly Scholarship.
The scholarship is awarded to a local high school student committed to pursuing a public safety and/or law enforcement career. Applicants were evaluated on leadership, civic and volunteer activities, and academic performance.
The scholarship amount was originally $2,000, but Michelle Freeman, president and CEO of Carl M. Freeman Companies, contributed another $2,000 for a total of $4,000.
Freeman also donated $2,000 to the Montgomery County Police Department for its continuing efforts in combatting drunken driving.
Freeman said she believes the dead want two things — to be remembered and to have good done in their name.
“I believe we have accomplished both really beautifully today,” she said.
Noah Leotta’s legacy of saving lives continues with the enactment of Noah’s Law on Oct. 1, 2016.
Among other things, Noah’s Law requires that an interlock device be installed in the car of all convicted drunk drivers and increases suspension times in the state of Maryland.
“Noah is still making a difference and is always on patrol,” Rich Leotta said.
Terri Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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