COLONIE — “An NYPD officer drove up from New York City to express his department’s sympathies and deliver a check,” said Tim Stowell. “We had fire departments and sheriff’s departments. I mean, I’m just looking through the checks from the schools and teachers and neighbors; people who didn’t even know the family and just heard the story drove out from East Greenbush and down from Saratoga County.”
During the course of a four-hour bowling fundraiser held at Spare Time Lanes in Latham on Valentine’s Day in zero-degree weather, Stowell and other organizers raised approximately $55,000 to benefit the sole surviving member of a local family hit by an unexplained tragedy last week—a 15-year-old boy. The parking lot was full from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. as 264 bowlers took to the lanes and myriad others browsed silent auction items, offered donations and enjoyed refreshments.
Noah Roman, the eldest son of the late Officer Israel Roman, lost his entire immediate family last week, but community members have rallied to support his surviving son.
Stowell, who has known Noah and his family since his twin sons attended kindergarten with the elder Roman a decade ago, coached the boys in baseball through elementary school and says that he often encountered the family in connection with other school activities over the years. His late son Ben, who died of cancer six years ago, was Noah’s best friend and Noah spoke at his funeral. “He said they would always be friends,” said Stowell. “He had so much eloquence and poise for a nine-year-old. His mother stood by his side, but she told me that he wrote the whole thing himself.”
“I knew this is what Ben would have wanted,” said Stowell, explaining how the fundraiser had initially been organized to raise money to fund a yearly $50,000 grant set up in Ben Stowell’s name. He added, “I just started thinking about things and it made sense. The last time we held this event to raise money for Ben, the Romans participated.” When Stowell became aware of the murder-suicide early last week, he said that it just made sense to turn the bowling event into a benefit for his late son’s friend.
“I saw Debbie just before Christmas,” said Stowell of Noah’s mother. “We talked in the middle of the grocery store for about 45 minutes. Nothing seemed abnormal or out of the ordinary. Nothing seemed unusual with either one of them. I would see [Roman] out driving his patrol car and he would always wave and we would talk when we ran into each other, often about our kids. All I ever saw was a proud dad doing as much as he could to spend time with his kids, even with his work schedule; the relationship between them seemed no different than any other family.”
“I have friends who were extremely close with them,” he added. “And they are just shaking their heads in total confusion.”
But, said Stowell, “The outpouring of spirit has been really amazing. Pretty much anyone who had a professional relationship with the Romans handed us a check yesterday—doctors, dentists, different businesses that they may have frequented.” Even those who attended to support the originally-planned fundraiser for Ben wound up donating to both, according to Stowell. What Noah does with that money will depend on what he and his family decide is best going forward.
“The family’s goal is to do what’s best for Noah. I haven’t followed up with particulars, but if what’s best for Noah is for him to stay in the area, then that’s what they’re going to try to do. It’s difficult because a lot of the family doesn’t live in the area but they’re going to make it work to do what’s best for Noah. Both sides of the family, paternal and maternal, have really come together for him and they just really want him to be okay.”
Stowell said that he spoke with family members briefly the evening of the fundraiser, after a service that was held for Officer Roman. “They were exhausted as you can imagine, but I spoke with them again this morning (Feb.15) and they said that yesterday was a good day for Noah and that he definitely felt the love. His friends who were bowling were taking selfies and photos and sending him messages just to show him what was going on and he really felt it and he knows. It was a great day. We had some people who came from Izzy’s service, or were going there, and it turned out to be absolutely perfect that they coincided because, not only did they feel the love at the service, but they also felt it coming from the event.”
Anyone who still wishes to donate money can do so at a crowdfunding site called YouCaring. Stowell has set up an account for Noah at https://www.youcaring.com/noah-520173. Nearly 500 donors had given approximately $22,000 as of Monday (Feb.15) afternoon. Alternately, a community member set up a fund for Noah through Trustco Bank. More information can be found on the North Colonie School District website.