2021 | Schools

Former Walter Johnson High student remembered as outgoing, loyal

Nolan’s death is being investigated as homicide

Walter Johnson HS

Photo via MCPS

Two people who knew Martín Nolan from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda remember him as an outgoing, loyal person who brought energy to a room.

Nolan, 21, was found dead on Jan. 14 inside a vehicle in the parking lot of a Glenmont elementary school.

Montgomery County police said last week that they are investigating his death as a homicide. The state’s medical examiner was to perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, police have said.

Gerry Gruber, a 2018 Walter Johnson graduate, told Bethesda Beat in an interview over the weekend that he wasn’t “super close” with Nolan, but they would often talk in the hall for a few minutes each day.

Gruber said he had seen news reports of a body found at an elementary school in Montgomery County, but didn’t know what to make of it at first.

“…. [Then] I started seeing social media posts about Martín, and then it all kind of clicked,” he said. “And as soon as I kind of realized it happened … really, the only word that can describe it is shock.”

Gruber said Nolan’s hobbies included soccer and photography. But what he remembers most is the way he interacted with others, particularly students with special needs at Walter Johnson.

“If I would see him with those kids, he’d always bring a smile to their face,” Gruber said. “They’d go up to him and talk to them. That was one of the greatest things that I’ve ever seen from anybody, is his ability to bring a smile to their face.”

Nick Gillespie, another fellow Walter Johnson student of Nolan’s, played soccer with him on a team outside school.

Gillespie remembered getting a concussion during a game and Nolan rushed to his side.

“I’m pretty sure he noticed I was concussed before I did, and so he helped me off the field, which was super nice back in the day,” he said. “That was when everyone was trying to play their best and play as hard as they could, so it was nice that someone just stood up ….”

Gillespie said Nolan was a frequent guest at parties.

“He was one of the cool kids at a party. He’s in tons of different people’s Instagram pictures, if that makes sense. So he got around a lot, I would say,” he said.

On Friday, about 30 to 40 people — many of whom were Nolan’s high school friends — gathered for a vigil in a parking lot across Rockville Pike from Congressional Plaza, Gruber said. They shared stories and laughed as they remembered their friend.

“It was pretty great. Some people had candles. Everybody just gathered and told their stories about Martín. We just kind of celebrated how good of a person he was,” Gruber said.

“Bottom line, every story was about he always made someone laugh, or was just a supportive person.”

Throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, people who knew Nolan left messages on social media with their remembrances of him, Gruber said. Among them were “I’ll never forget you” and “you’ll always be a motivation to me to work harder.”

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com