Family, friends, and fellow police officers and motorcyclists congregated in and around St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Shrine Church in East Northport on Tuesday to honor Anastasios Tsakos, the NYPD Highway Patrol member killed in the line of duty on April 27 when he was struck by an alleged drunk driver on the Long Island Expressway.
At the funeral, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea posthumously promoted the highly-regarded officer to first-grade detective. Officers from across Long Island, hundreds from the NYPD, as well as some from Yonkers, Syracuse, New Jersey, and beyond could be seen gathering in the neighborhood around the church to pay their respects.
“We’re all mourning. We’re all in pain. It does not make sense that such a good man in every sense could possibly be gone,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio during his remarks. “But his heroism uplifts us. Some people are true heroes. Some people are there for others. That is Anastasios Tsakos.”
De Blasio spoke in support of harsher laws against drunk driving, saying that drunk drivers “put everyone else in their path in danger … We need to make this change, and we need to make it in honor of Anastasios.”
Tsakos, a 14-year veteran of the NYPD’s highway patrol unit, died after a Hempstead woman allegedly struck him while driving drunk as he directed traffic away from another fatal accident on the LIE in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Jessica Beauvais, 32, of Hempstead, was charged with manslaughter and faces up to 15 years in prison for his death.
De Blasio and Shea described Tsakos as a hard worker who always wanted to help and could often make others laugh with his dry humor delivered in a Greek accent, according to stories told to them by family, friends, and colleagues.
The 43-year-old was born in Dover, N.H., Shea said during his remarks. Tsakos and his parents then moved to Greece, their home country, where he lived until he was 14. The family then came to Astoria, Queens, where Tsakos graduated high school.
Tsakos earned his undergraduate degree in aviation administration from the now-defunct Dowling College on Long Island. He had a dream to fly airplanes and helicopters. After college, he worked at his father’s Port Washington diner for some time, and then returned to Greece and enlisted in the Greek army, where he became second lieutenant.
In 2007, he moved back to the U.S. and joined the NYPD with the goal of flying an NYPD helicopter, Shea said. He worked in the 75th and 83rd Precincts before joining the Highway Patrol.
Ten years ago, Tsakos met his wife, Irene, whose emotional eulogy closed out the funeral service. Tsakos leaves behind Irene, their 6-year-old daughter, Jenny, and 3-year-old son, Stavos.
“One of his dreams was to one day hit the Lotto and buy his own small plane so we could travel the world,” Irene Tsakos said. “My heart would still skip a beat when I look at him even 10 years later. I will miss everything about him … I wish we had more time. I wish we could grow old together. That was the plan.
“Now our kids will grow up without their awesome dad,” she continued. “Every day they’ll see his face and learn all about the things he did. They will never forget, I will make sure of that.”
Irene also spoke of Tsakos’ deep love for his children and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Pulaski Road between Broadway and Stony Hollow Road were blocked off to vehicles from 7:30 a.m. through the afternoon for the massive funeral.
There are two GoFundMe pages for the Tsakos family, one created by a family member and one by Fund the First Foundation. They have collectively raised nearly $300,000. In addition, Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which provides support to families of military and first responders, announced that it will pay off Anastasios’ mortgage on his home to aid the family.
This story first appeared on our sister publication longislandpress.com.