By Ivan Pereira
For the residents of one Astoria block, Frank Justich was more than just the guy who picked up their trash twice a week — he was a valued member of the community.ï»¿
“He knew a lot of people by their first name and they knew him by his first name,” Justich’s widow Stacy said. “How many people know their garbageman’s first name?”
When he was killed in an accident more than a year ago at the corner of 35th Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard, colleagues, family and the people he served week after week were devastated but wanted to keep his memory alive.
On Sunday, that wish was fulfilled when that corner was officially renamed “Frank Justich Way.”
Several members of the city Sanitation Department, which also renamed the Queens station where he worked for 11 years in his honor, were on hand and spoke highly of their fallen member. Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty never met the 41-year-old father of two, but was moved by all of the stories his co-workers would tell about him.
On many occasions, Frank Justich would give a stray dog a bone from the trash to play with during his routine, according to the commissioner.
Justich’s mother, Pat Taieb, said her son’s personality would always energize those around him.
“He loved everybody, his company, his wife, his daughters. He was a great man” she said.
Frank Justich was working at the corner Jan. 26, 2010, when he was fatally struck by a tractor-trailer that was passing by. His funeral was attended by hundreds of Sanitation members, the mayor and other leaders.
Taieb said the street renaming was a great honor for her son’s legacy. Even though he grew up in Jackson Heights and lived with his family in Whitestone, Frank Justich would always talk with enthusiasm about the Astoria streets where he worked and how much the residents adored him.
“You don’t get this honor if you’re not a good person,” she said.
Stacy Justich agreed. With her left arm clutching the couple’s 2 1/2-year-old daughter Felicity while her other hand was holding the hand of their eldest child Faith, 5, she lit up with excitement as the new street sign was unveiled.
“It’s great. It’s something my girls and I can look to and always remember him by,” she said.
Frank Justich’s legacy will continue to live on in other ways, according to his family. He was a passionate artist who loved to draw and occasionally sketch profiles of his co-workers.
A book of those sketches is in the works for publication, Taieb said.
“He always wanted to be a famous artist,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.