Nov 28, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Greg Avellino is thankful for the East Syracuse Minoa school community.
Avellino, the new principal of ESM Central High School, experienced the generosity of the district’s staff, students and parents firsthand when Superstorm Sandy took the life of his sister Lisa’s boyfriend of eight years, Artur Kasprzak, on Oct. 29. Kasprzak, a New York City cop, died a hero after getting seven of his family members, including his 15-month-old nephew, safely to the attic of his Staten Island home as flood waters filled the basement. Lisa was among those he ushered to safety before returning to the basement one more time. He did not return.
Upon hearing this news, the staff at Pine Grove Middle School and the high school began collecting money and items for Kasprzak’s family. Avellino was able to hand deliver some supplies and $600 in donations to the family when he attended the funeral Nov. 8.
He noted that his family dentist, Dr. Paul Nozynski of Fayetteville, donated 75 tubes of toothpaste without hesitation. His wife, Traci, who teaches special education at Pine Grove Middle School, helped spread the word.
“The family was very appreciative as well as a woman we met who had nothing and was in need of basic toiletries for her family and others in their neighborhood,” Avellino said.
Lisa, a science teacher at a New York City charter school, had recently moved in with Kasprzak and his family; the couple planned to soon become engaged, Avellino said.
Avellino said he knew Kasprzak from socializing with him a few times and he was “always very loving, very caring.” His actions on the day Sandy hit spoke to his character, he said.
He once saved the life of a man drowning man in the East River when he was patrolling the South Street Seaport.
At the funeral, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Kasprzak “loved his job, loved his partner, loved being a part of the NYPD, and he loved New York City. He wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”
Kasprzak, who worked out of the 1st Precinct in lower Manhattan, could be called the NYPD’s poster boy in more ways than one; his face could be seen on a poster made for recruits advertising the Police Academy’s motto of “crime fighting, counter-terrorism and community relations.”
“He was the kind of guy who could work an overtime shift, then be told he had to do another, and just take it in stride, with a smile on his face,” Bloomberg said.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called Kasprzak “one of our very best.”
The Consulate General from Poland also spoke; Kasprzak was a first generation Polish immigrant. Avellino said the funeral was extremely emotional, “because we did not expect it to be so full of pomp and circumstance.”
“From the funeral home all the way to the church there were numerous police standing at attention along the road,” he said. “There must have been about 2,000 police officers standing at attention.”
He said the donations that came in when word got out about his connection to the events of Sandy showed what the community is all about.
“The grace of people and the generosity and the caring, it just speaks loudly that the community cares,” he said. “That the staff at the high school and the staff at Pine Grove, they all care.”
Ned Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.