Anastasios Tsakos' life was about helping those in need.
Whether tending to a stranded motorist on the roadside or delivering meals to a neighbor sick with COVID-19, the East Northport father who served the NYPD for 14 years had a knack for being where he could be of service to others, his brother and neighbors told Newsday.
"You came out your door to get to your driveway, he screamed … ‘hello. How are you? That was him," said Moyra Bletsch, who lives across the street from the officer. "He was wonderful."
Tsakos was struck and killed on the Long Island Expressway near Francis Lewis Boulevard in Queens Tuesday morning while directing traffic after a fatal single-car accident shortly after midnight. He died at New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital, police said.
Authorities say the officer was hit by Jessica Beauvais, 32, of Hempstead who was intoxicated, speeding and driving on a suspended license. She has been charged with about a dozen offenses, including vehicular manslaughter.
Tsakos' family worried about the veteran NYPD highway officer's safety but understood his devotion to the profession.
"You worry all the time, " his younger brother Teddy Tsakos, 42, told Newsday. "But this was what he liked … And you’ve got to be happy for him. This is what he wanted to do. This is what he chose. You worry about everything."
Tsakos, known as "Taso," was remembered as a man deeply committed to his profession and his family, a kind soul eager to help others and who enjoyed working with his hands.
When he wasn't patrolling Queens' busy roadways, he could be found drawing pictures in chalk with his two young kids outside their new home in East Northport.
Teddy Tsakos said his brother and sister-in-law, Irene Tsakos, purchased their East Northport home last year so their two children, a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, would have space to play outside.
"My brother was an amazing guy," Teddy Tsakos said in a phone interview on Tuesday morning as he prepared to board a plane to New York from North Carolina. "He had his whole life ahead of him. It was cut short."
He said his brother was especially handy with woodworking and preferred to do home renovations himself.
"He started fixing (the house) up. Always playing with the kids. Doing projects with the kids," Tsakos said. "He built them tables. He built them night tables. He was excited about that part of his life."
Anastasios Tsakos, who also has a younger sister, grew up in Astoria, Queens. His parents owned several diners, including in Astoria, Port Washington and Great Neck.
"He wasn’t the guy who would go out to clubs," Teddy Tsakos said of his brother. "He wasn’t a bar guy. He didn’t drink. He didn’t smoke. He just liked to work and stay home with his family."
Rosemarie and Simone Giacalone, both schoolteachers, have lived next door to the Tsakos family since they moved onto the block last summer.
On Tuesday, Rosemarie recalled the family's generosity and abject kindness. When the Giacalones contracted COVID-19 last year and were forced to quarantine, Anastasios Tsakos brought over groceries while his wife made the family soup, she said.
"The most incredible people you could ever meet," said Rosemarie Giacalone. "To have new neighbors move next door, we were just so lucky to have such an amazing family."
Two weeks ago, the officer volunteered to help Simone with the molding on the Giacalones' stairs. "They only moved in last summer, but they treated us like they’ve known us for years," Rosemarie Giacalone said.
Anastasios Tsakos had a pilot's license and once dreamed of taking a job in the airline industry, his brother said. Instead, he joined the NYPD, which was a perfect fit.
"My brother was very by-the-book," Teddy Tsakos said. "That was the life for him. Either the military or the police. Because he was always like, ‘You need to follow the rules.’ He liked that. He was a very neat person. Very meticulous."
Tsakos said his brother, who rode a motorcycle to work every day, occasionally talked about the dangers of the job, but "liked what he was doing" and gained the most satisfaction from helping people.
"He would help people out left and right," he said. "That’s what most cops do. You don’t hear about it on the news. You only hear the bad things."
On Tuesday, neighbors stopped by the Tsakos home, delivering coffee, flowers or well wishes. NYPD and Suffolk County police cars were stationed in front of the home and members of the family declined to talk to reporters.
But as the family mourned, neighbors on the tree-lined street struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
"The little one will grow up never really knowing his father," Simone Giacalone said as he wiped away tears. "It’s just heartbreaking. … He was super dedicated. Every spare time he had he played with his kids. We feel helpless right now."
Among the visitors were Kathy Vigiano and Margaret McDonald of Survivors of the Shield, which provides assistance to family members of NYPD officers killed in the line of the duty.
Vigiano said she told Irene that "she’s not alone. The NYPD is a dangerous job. Police officers need our support. They need the support of the public."
The New York Police and Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund, also known as Answer the Call, will provide Tsakos' family with $25,000 to offset "immediate expenses," the charity said in a statement.
The fund also aims to give Irene an annual stipend for the rest of her life, according to executive director Lauren Profeta.
"Answer the Call vows to honor Officer Tsakos by helping those he loved the most — his family," Profeta said in a statement. "His bravery, heroism, and service to our city will never be forgotten."
Steven Mandera, who lives across the street from Tsakos, worried about how the family puts the pieces back together.
"It’s just a tragedy," Mandera said. "A senseless act of someone driving drunk without a license. Now the poor children have to grow up without a father. It’s just not fair."
With Joan Gralla