ELKRIDGE, Md. - A loving son, a missionary, and a great teacher - a few hundred people gathered to remember Johnny Deckman as strong in character for his young age.
"Thanksgiving morning, I made him breakfast and he turned to me and said, 'Mom I'm so thankful for you. That was John, he was always thinking of other people," said Charnell Parthemore, Johnny’s mom.
On Sunday night, they thought of Johnny. A crowd of mourners took over the front lawn of Heritage Community Church in Severn.
Deckman was killed along with his best friend, 19-year-old Jeffrey Giles Friday night. Howard County Police say they were on the passenger side of the vehicle - with Giles up front and Deckman in the back. Three others, including Alyssa Yi, survived.
"Trust me, none of us knew anything was going to happen that night. And seeing all of you out here, how much he affected everybody, just makes me wish I got more time to know him," said Yi.
The driver, 18-year-old Dale Audet, was taken to Shock Trauma in critical condition. Police say speed was a factor and the two teens were not wearing their seatbelts, a point their youth pastor plans to address.
"Obviously everyone should be wearing their seatbelt. It's not something that I practice regularly. It's something that I definitely need to. I need to model that for our students that I lead," said Jason Harris.
Deckman had a love for children. He was going to Anne Arundel Community College to become a teacher. This summer, he traveled with his church family to El Salvador on a missionary trip.
His girlfriend of two years was by his side.
"I know that God had a purpose for taking him away because he changed my life and I know he changed other people's lives while he was alive," said Kaitlyn Lindsey.
His family is now faced with the tough challenge of planning a funeral instead of a birthday celebration.
"This time 19 years ago, I was preparing to give birth to my first child and on Thursday I'm going to lay his to rest," said Parthemore.
The funeral arrangements are set. A viewing will be held for Jeffrey Giles at Heritage Community Church on Tuesday from 6 – 9 p.m. A memorial homecoming is planned for Wednesday at 10 a.m.
Arrangements are set for Johnny Deckman on Thursday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The funeral will follow.
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