NEW YORK— Theodore Leoutsakos was a United States Air Force Veteran who served during the Vietnam War. A New York State Court Officer for 24 years, he worked perimeter patrol outside the New York County Supreme Court at 111 Centre Street in Manhattan. Leoutsakos was a lifelong Astoria resident. He was a first responder and assisted with rescue efforts on 9/11 at the World Trade Center, demonstrating his dedication and sacrifice to his fellow New Yorkers, only to get stuck under the collapse of the South Tower. He survived that day but suffered the lasting health effects. Shortly after his retirement, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as a result of his response to the World Trade Center and his time spent at Ground Zero. Leoutsakos passed away from September 11th-related cancer on February 3, 2015.
On September 9 at 2 PM, the corner of 29th Street and 21st Avenue in Astoria was co-named for the hero. Council Member Costa Constantinides, New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, New York State Senator Michael Giannaris, New York State Court Officers Academy, the Leoutsakos family, including the late Leoutsakos’ daughters Stacey, Cynthia, and Stephanie, his grandchildren Stephen, Jack, and Juliana, local groups, and officials attended the unveiling of the plaque for Lieutenant Theodore Leoutsakos Way. The plaque was placed on the southwest corner of the street where Leoutsakos lived.
Stephanie Leoutsakou, the youngest daughter of the hero, spoke to the National Herald about the honor the City of New York and the Greek-American community has bestowed on her late father. She said that both her parents will be looking down from heaven and their souls will rejoice at the honor. Rose Leoutsakou, beloved wife and mother, predeceased her husband Theodore by one year.
Leotsakos’ cousin Frank Miterotonda spoke on behalf of the family and expressed how much everyone will miss Teddy, who was the “sweetest, kindest, gentlest man you’ve ever met.” When the time came to unveil the sign, the string snapped. Family friend James V. Padula, Jr., age 71, climbed up to unveil the sign for his dear friend. When asked how long he had known Leoutsakos, he told reporters that he had been there on the day the family moved into the neighborhood.
Leoutsakos was among the first on that dreadful day who rushed to save their fellow citizens at the Twin Towers. He worked with the rescue teams involved in the difficult task of searching for survivors and victims in the rubble of the Towers and the historic church of St. Nicholas. Theodore Leoutsakos like so many other police officers and firefighters inhaled the toxic dust, fumes, and carcinogens while searching through the debris damaging their health.
Leoutsakos’ health worsened after September 11 and on February 3, 2015 he lost the battle with the disease. The funeral was held on Saturday, February 7 at the Church of Saint Catherine and Saint George in Astoria and his colleagues, the court officers, firefighters, and police officers bid farewell to this brave and humble hero.
His colleagues have already set up a scholarship fund in memory of Leoutsakos while at the same time, Council Member Constantinides submitted the bill to the City Council for the street co-naming of Lieutenant Theodore Leoutsakos Way. The city council unanimously passed the bill and it was signed into law on August 3.
Constantinides said, “We are proud to commemorate Lieutenant Theodore Leoutsakos’ contribution to our city with this street co-naming. Leoutsakos’ assistance at the World Trade Center rubble pile during the September 11th rescue efforts demonstrated his sacrifice to our community. We honor him for his dedication and service. Thank you to everyone for joining us in celebrating his memory.”
“We are so honored to have the street my family has lived on for 47 years co-named in our father’s honor. Our father was a man who believed in serving his community and country. We would like to thank Councilman Constantinides and the NYS Court Officers Academy on their tireless work on getting this street co-naming passed. Today is a celebration of my father and a proud day for our entire family,” said Stacey, Cynthia, and Stephanie Leoutsakos.
NYS Court Officers Academy Chief Joseph Baccellieri, Jr. said, “We are grateful to Councilman Constantinides for honoring and paying tribute to a true American hero who served his country with pride and distinction in combat as an airman in the United States Air Force and as a New York State Court Officer who responded to the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.”
Baccellieri also read a letter from Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and of the State of New York, who could not attend the event, expressing her thanks for Leoutsakos’ years of service and his sacrifice, noting that the street named in his honor is a permanent symbol of the love and respect of his family, friends, and colleagues. Simotas and Gianaris also thanked all those in attendance, especially our men and women in uniform and the New York State Court Officers, and all the heroes of 9/11, those who perished that day and those who suffered and are suffering from the exposure to the toxic chemicals.
Leoutsakos’ father was from a large family originally from Sparta. Theodore Leoutsakos, an airman in the US Air Force, fought in Vietnam, was wounded, and honorably discharged. He then worked for 20 years at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a respiratory therapist. Leoutsakos, then changed careers, becoming a New York State Court Officer and retired with the rank of lieutenant.