Anthony Varvaro, the Port Authority police officer who was killed by a wrong-way driver on his way to the 9/11 commemoration in Manhattan, is remembered as a “family man ” and a “role model” at this Staten Island vigil on Tuesday.
Some 300 mourners lined up at the Matthew Funeral Home in Westerleigh to pay their respects to Varvaro, who was a Major League Baseball pitcher before becoming a cop in his hometown.
Family, friends and the crowd of Varvaro’s brothers in blue wept as they watched white billboards decorated with photos of the late officer playing baseball, posing with family and friends and enjoying time at the beach.
Varvaro, 37, was remembered as a “tremendous officer” by Port Authority Police Superintendent Edward Cetnar.
“I mean there are no words you can say. We are here to support you,” Cetnar told reporters outside the funeral home.
“And as a police department family [we’ll] do everything we can for the family,” Cetnar said, referring to his widow Kerry and their four children – AJ, Johnny, Christina and Savannah.
“I couldn’t imagine being in the position of this young woman right now with four young children. And we can never forget the service this young man has given us,” Cetnar said.
Varvaro was described by a family friend as a « calm and quiet » family man devoted to his children.
He always wanted to become an officer after throwing for six years in the majors so he could spend more time with his family, said the friend, who identified as Nubia.
“Even though we knew he always wanted football or baseball, he always wanted to be a police officer as well,” Nubia said of Anthony.
“He wanted to be a father. He didn’t want to be away all the time. Her priority was her children,” Nubia said. « He didn’t like being away. »
Varvaro earned a degree in criminal justice at St. John’s University before being called up to the big leagues for six years. The relief pitcher spent most of his time with the Atlanta Braves, but also played ball for the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox.
“It’s an incredible attribute for him that where he came from – playing major league baseball on the biggest stage in the world – and then his dream was to be a police officer, and he followed that dream after living his dream of to be a professional baseball player,” Center said.
After joining the force, Varvaro gave back to the community by mentoring children at the department’s youth academy.
“Recently, he was one of the main instructors of our youth academy which we just launched and which serves as a role model for children in the community,” added Cetnar.
Varvaro was killed near Exit 14C of the New Jersey Turnpike around 4:25 a.m. Sunday as he walked to the World Trade Center to guard the annual solemn remembrance ceremony.
Henry Plazas, 30, of Bridgewater, NJ was also killed in the crash, police said. He was allegedly driving the wrong way on the toll highway when he hit Varvaro head-on.
“The coincidence of what happened on 9/11 while on his way to work in a security service to pay tribute to the people we never forget – we lost 37 officers that day – and he was part of the security department for that,” Cetnar said.
A second vigil was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon before a funeral mass at Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil church and a burial at Saint-Pierre cemetery on Thursday.