STATEN ISLAND, NY – As the gentle roar of police motorcycles and the pounding of ceremonial drums broke what felt like an eternity of intense silence Thursday morning in Tompkinsville, the funeral procession for the authority police officer Harbor officer Anthony Varvaro rode slowly past hundreds of stone-faced officers standing firmly at attention.
Among those present were several dozen PAPD cadets whom Varvaro — a former Major League player who about five years ago opted out of baseball for a career in law enforcement — was helping to form at the time of his death.
“We had just assigned him to the police academy to help train new recruits,” said Edward Cetnar, superintendent of the Port Authority Police Department. “Serve as a mentor and role model; that’s the kind of person he was.
Varvaro died Sunday morning after his car was hit by a wrong-way driver on New Jersey’s turnpike. The crash happened near the Holland Tunnel, hours before the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony near the World Trade Center site. The 37-year-old father of four had volunteered to help stand guard that day.
“Words cannot express our grief and how much we will miss Anthony,” the family said in a written statement over the weekend. “We are together today in remembrance of Anthony’s accomplishments on the pitch and his service with the PAPD. But more importantly, how the little things were so much bigger for him, and he cherished every moment spent with his friends. and his family.
“WHEN YOU RECEIVE THIS CALL…”
Several law enforcement agencies were present Thursday, including the PAPD, NYPD, New Jersey State Police and Hudson County Police. There was also an FDNY presence as several of Varvaro’s relatives have ties to the department. Overlooking the large crowd, posted on the roof of the church, were members of the PAPD’s Counter Terrorism Unit.
Two men who live in the neighborhood watched across the street on Thursday as a sea of dark blues and grays flooded the neighborhood, and pipers rehearsed a Gaelic tune on a commercial stretch of Victory Boulevard.
“When you get that call, there’s nothing you can do,” one of the men said. “I’m not funny or anything, but we all have a date. Yes sir. Everyone had one.
Those who knew Varvaro say his commitments relied heavily on his family and the community he grew up in.
“We got to know each other because he was coming to support a close friend of his from the neighborhood who was battling COVID,” said Dr. Dan Messina, president and CEO of Richmond University Medical Center. “It became very clear that this tough, competitive athlete had a sensitive side to him and that those around him meant more than anything.”
In 2021, Varvaro was named president of the Snug Harbor Little League, where alongside then-borough president James Oddo, he campaigned for renovations to league facilities, including lights for night games.
Previously, he acted as a mentor to the island’s younger generations of baseball players, participating in a practice session with the College of Staten Island Dolphins baseball team and emphasizing the importance of education. during an appearance at Susan Wagner High School.
Following a private funeral service held inside Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil Church on Thursday, Varvaro’s son helped push the coffin into the hearse before the family drove to the cemetery. While visiting Wagner in 2015, Varvaro gave students — and presumably his own children — the following advice.
“In life, you will have ups and downs. The moral of the story is that if you get knocked down, you have to get up and keep going.
OVER $350,000 IMPROVED
A public GoFundMe created for the Varvaro family had raised nearly $350,000 in donations as of Thursday morning.
“When you see four young children who no longer have their father, and his poor wife who is going to have to figure out how she is going to raise these children; any support you can give is great,” Cetnar said. “And the financial component, as everyone knows, is huge.”
Barstool Sports is among the national sports venues that have joined the fundraising efforts – releasing a t-shirt honoring the fallen Staten Islander, with all proceeds going directly to the Varvaro family.
For donations in lieu of flowers, the family has requested that they be made to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and Snug Harbor Little League.