May 17, 2017

All In A Day’s Work: Andy Tamasi, Crossing Guard: “A Quiet Giant” 

FORTY-SIX YEARS OF SAFE CROSSING: Andy Tamasi, honored last week with an award of recognition from the Princeton Council, has served as a school crossing guard at various locations in Princeton since 1971.

More than 200,000 Princeton school children over the past 46 years have crossed the street under the watchful eye of crossing guard Costantino “Andy” Tamasi. There have been no injuries and no accidents. 

“It’s very important,” he said. “You’re making sure those kids don’t get hurt. You have to treat them like they’re yours.”

And every school morning starting at 8 a.m. and in the afternoon from 2:55 p.m., Mr. Tamasi is on the job at his current post at Rollingmead Street and Littlebrook Road, greeting the children and their parents, making sure they proceed safely on their way to school.

“I stand on the corner,” he said. “You have to learn which way the kids are coming from. I stand on the sidewalk, and I can see them coming, and I wait. Then, when they’re close, I’ll step out and hold the stop sign up. I stand in the middle and they walk across the street and I make sure that they’re on the sidewalk on the other side walking towards school before I drop the sign, because you never know what kids might do.”

Last week Mr. Tamasi was honored with an award of recognition from the Princeton Council, as “someone who goes above and beyond in making Princeton the special place that it is,” according to Mayor Liz Lempert.

“He’s a quiet giant in the town of Princeton,” said Councilman Lance Liverman in presenting the award. “He has taught all of us what dedication means.” His dedication to his work as a crossing guard, Mr. Liverman noted, “shows a sense of love and caring for future generations.”

Mr. Liverman recalled when, as a young man, he worked at the Princeton Recreation Department and Mr. Tamasi was his boss. “He has been a mentor, a boss, a friend, a teacher, a father, and a brother to me. He was the most thoughtful and caring boss I ever had.”

Mr. Tamasi was born in Italy and came to Princeton as a young child in 1935. He went to St Paul School on Nassau Street, then on to Princeton High School. His father was a foreman on the grounds at Princeton University.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Tamasi joined the Navy, where he served for four years, two of those on the USS Intrepid. He then returned home, studied to be a machinist on the GI Bill, and took a job at Princeton University’s Forrestal Center. In 1971 he went to work for the Princeton Recreation Department (PRD).

It was in 1971 at St. Paul’s Church, where his children were in catechism class, that Mr. Tamasi’s long career with the traffic safety division of the Princeton Police Department began.

Mr. Tamasi recalled, “Lieutenant Dick Steiner, a policeman in the township at the time whose children were also in catechism class, asked me, ‘Can you give us a hand? We need school crossing guards.’ And I said, ‘OK.’”

Mr. Tamasi’s dedication and integrity were manifest from the start. He said, “I went to the director of the PRD, told him the crossing guards needed help, and he said, ‘Fine. do it.’ It was going to be an hour a day, a half hour in the morning, a half hour in the afternoon, so instead of coming in to work at the PRD at the usual hour of 8, I said I’d come in at 7 to make up the hour. He said ‘no, you don’t have to do that,’ but I said ‘yes I do.’” And that’s what Mr. Tamasi did until he retired from the PRD in 1998, but continuing, of course, his work as a crossing guard.

Over the years, Mr. Tamasi has worked at nearly all of the 15 crossing locations in Princeton, with his longest post at Valley Road and Witherspoon Street.

With a certain air of authority and his many years of experience, Mr. Tamasi has never had any disciplinary problems with the children and happily reports that at his present post, “everybody says hello and good morning and thank you.”

The only major incident Mr. Tamasi recalls from his 46 years as a crossing guard occurred at Valley Road and Witherspoon Street, when he stopped the Witherspoon Street traffic, but one driver started blowing his horn and started to go. “I said ‘you can’t go,’” Mr. Tamasi recalled, “and he said ‘I can do what I want.’ The driver went over to the police department to complain about me, and Sergeant Cromwell, who was in charge at the time, gave him a ticket. The man came out and said to me, ‘Are you happy now?’ and I said, ‘If you don’t shut up he’ll give you another ticket.’ But that was the only time anything like that ever happened.”

Mr. Tamasi lives in Princeton with his wife of 62 years, Marianne. They have three children and seven grandchildren. He loves trips to the beach, gardening, and spending time with his family. In his spare time, he is restoring a 1947 Willys Jeep. He is currently president of the Princeton Roma Eterna Club, a member of the Princeton Pettoranello Sister City Foundation, and he serves on the board of the Italian American Sportsmen’s Club.

Mr. Tamasi, now 84, says he wants to live to be 100, and, “Yes, I’m going to be working the crossing the whole time.”