By Sean Barron
On occasion, Marisa Litch plays the home video that recorded her dancing and prancing about when she was a toddler more than three decades ago.
Behind the camera was her doting father, John “Sonny” Litch.
“It may seem strange, but certain smells and music remind me of him,” said Marisa Litch, a caseworker with the Mahoning County Children Services Board.
That is one of the few direct memories Marisa has of her father, a Mahoning County deputy sheriff and firefighter who was shot to death in the line of duty Oct. 22, 1981, when she was about 19 months old.
Litch and 25 other law-enforcement officers in Mahoning County were remembered and honored during Friday’s annual Fallen Officers Memorial at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 343 Via Mount Carmel.
The Youngstown Police Department Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 28 and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office FOP Lodge 141 hosted the somber, 90-minute gathering.
Marisa said she greatly appreciates those who have discussed with her their memories of her father. She
also has shared his legacy with her two children, 5 and 14.
In addition, Marisa said, she has forgiven John Glenn, who was convicted in the killing. Nevertheless, the family wants Glenn to spend the rest of his life in prison, and they attended a hearing earlier this year in which he was denied parole.
Sonny Litch was an outgoing man who loved music, had a great sense of humor, and was willing to help anyone who needed him, remembered his wife, Darlene Litch.
“He could come into a room and within a few minutes, have everyone in a joyful mood,” she explained.
While a student at Campbell Memorial High School, the 16-year-old Litch played the tuba and formed a band called “Little John and the Thunderbirds,” which played everything from polkas to rock ’n’ roll, she recalled. Later, the band’s name was changed to “The Sonny Litch Orchestra,” Darlene continued.
Litch studied music while at Kent State University before being offered a job with the Campbell Fire Department, where he worked his way up to captain. For a while, he worked as a firefighter and a deputy simultaneously, Darlene noted.
Also at the program were Darlene’s son, Bobby Litch, and Sonny Litch’s sister, Joan Borak of Springfield Township.
Those sworn to protect society must have vigilance as a top priority, even though it sometimes comes at a high cost, said Jay McDonald, Ohio State FOP president and a Marion, Ohio, police officer.
To underscore his point, McDonald noted that 20,267 names are etched on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. About 1,500 police officers have died in the line of duty in the past 10 years, including 112 killed in 2013 nationwide, he continued.
Calling the 2013 figure “a stunning number,” John Beshara, Youngstown State University police chief, urged people grieving the pain of such losses not to succumb to despair. Instead, those who made the ultimate sacrifice should be remembered for their bravery in serving a cause greater than themselves, he said.
“We must renew our vigilance to go forward and be safe out there,” added Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees.
Additional remarks were given by Elrico Alli, FOP Lodge 28’s president; city Councilman L. Nathaniel Pinkard, D-3rd; and Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st.
The event also featured “The Last Roll Call,” in which safety-force members and loved ones laid a red rose to pay their respects as the names of each of the 26 fallen officers were read.