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Well-liked Bethpage man, 81, struck and killed in Levittown

Nassau County police investigate the scene of a

Nassau County police investigate the scene of a accident on Hempstead Turnpike and Gardiners Avenue in Levittown Tuesday morning, April 22, 2014. Credit: Jim Staubitser

An 81-year-old Bethpage man walking to work at a Levittown grocery store early Tuesday was struck and killed by an alleged drunken driver as he crossed Hempstead Turnpike, a roadway once named the region's most dangerous for pedestrians.

Robert Chapman Sr., a familiar face to many in Levittown near the King Kullen where he stocked shelves and bagged groceries, was pronounced dead at the scene after he was struck at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, officials said.

James Taggart, 43, of Levittown was arrested shortly after he struck Chapman while driving his 1991 Chevrolet Geo Prism on Hempstead Turnpike, west of Gardiners Avenue, police said. Taggart was charged with driving while intoxicated and will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead.

Chapman's death was a grim reminder of hazards pedestrians have encountered on the busy turnpike. In 2012, four pedestrians were killed on the 16-mile stretch of roadway in Nassau County, said Tri-State Transportation, a watchdog group. Last year, three pedestrians died on the road, Nassau County officials and police said. Chapman is the first killed this year.

The watchdog group named the turnpike the region's most dangerous road in 2013.

Over the past year, the state Department of Transportation has made improvements, such as increasing times for crosswalks, like the one at Gardiners Avenue, near where Chapman was hit. Police said Chapman was struck after he got off a bus on the north side of the turnpike. He was crossing to the south side in an area without a crosswalk.

Friends and co-workers said Chapman, known as Bob, took the bus three mornings a week to the store and was well-known for his cheery disposition. He could often be seen at a nearby convenience store reading the newspaper and chatting with customers. Before working at King Kullen, Chapman had pumped gas at a nearby service station for at least two decades, friends said.

Anna Graziano, a co-worker of Chapman's at the King Kullen on Hempstead Turnpike, said she would drive him to the store on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Two hours before his shift, Chapman would often bag groceries, Graziano said.

"He would just do anything for anybody at anytime."

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