The dad with the wife and two young kids made a big impression on his new neighbors: Fixing up their Long Island home, playing ball in the yard, quick with a smile or a helping hand.
The stunning death of NYPD Highway Officer Anastasios Tsakos, 43, run down by an accused drunken driver, sent waves of grief through the East Northport, L.I., neighborhood where his family arrived only a year ago.
“Just an amazing dad and husband, (he) was incredible,” said next-door neighbor Rosemarie Giacalone, 47. “He treated us like we’ve known him for many years. Just that warm, friendly guy that was willing to help you out whenever you needed.”
Tsakos, who worked the overnight shift, always managed to make time for his new neighbors and his family after settling into the ranch house on a quiet street in the Suffolk County hamlet of about 20,000 residents.
A few days before his tragic death, the man known to neighbors as “Taso” was outside with the kids drawing chalk animals on the driveway.
“Whenever he was home, they’d be riding bikes, scooters … my daughter is nine, so she plays with them once in a while,” recalled Rosemarie Giacalone. “Whenever he had time and he was home, he was out there with his children, playing constantly.”
The 14-year NYPD veteran left behind his wife Irena, a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, officials said.
Simone Giacalone, 48, recalled how their new neighbor took care of them after they contracted COVID-19 last year.
“He brought us food every day,” she said. “His wife made soups for us. He texted me almost every day: ‘Do you need cold cuts? Do you need bread? Tell me, tell me.’”
The officer was also a bit of a handyman, installing modeling for the Giacalones and doing work in his own place.
“He got into woodworking,” recalled Simone Giacalone. “He made a beautiful table for his kitchen … Just that kind of guy. Had so much energy.”
Word of the tragedy moved quickly through the neighborhood. Neighbor Moyra Bletsch opened the blinds on her home Tuesday to see a black car parked in the officer’s driveway, and quickly feared for the worst about the best kind of neighbor.
“My first thought was ‘That doesn’t look good,’” she recounted. “A family man beyond anything. He tore that house apart and was redoing it. And friendly. You couldn’t walk from your house to the door if he was out without him scurrying across the street. Big smile on his face all the time.”
Neighbor Steven Mandera, 49, who lived across the street, recalled the last time he saw Tsakos.
“I waved to him the other day,” said Mandera. “He was with his kids in the driveway playing. I have two teenage daughters. It makes me want to cry.”