By Alex Robinson
Hundreds of friends and family members gathered at Flushing’s St. Andrew Avellino Parish Monday to mourn the loss of Annamarie Tromp, a beloved pre-K teacher who died in a New Year’s Eve car crash.
Anthony Zupnick, 24, of Flushing, was allegedly driving with a suspended licence when he collided with Tromp, 56, who was behind the wheel at the corner of 33rd Avenue and 172nd Street, a few blocks from her home, shortly after 2:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve, the NYPD said. He could not provide a valid driver’s license when police arrived and was arrested on charges of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, police said.
“She was my hero. I always wanted to be like my sister,” Tromp’s sister, Louisa Anastasi told mourners at the funeral. “My sister was my heart. I will love and miss you forever.”
Tromp taught at PS 79, at 147-27 15th Drive in Whitestone, for more than 17 years. Parents remembered her as the type of teacher who former students would come back to see years after they left PS 79. She treated her students as if they were her own children and referred to them as her babies, parents said.
“She loved the babies and they loved her, too. She was a really good person,” said Nanette Dougherty, the school librarian at PS 79.
Tromp grew up in Flushing with many hobbies and talents. Her sister remembered her as an avid New York Mets fan who rarely missed a game growing up.
“She was the best. Everything she did I wanted to do,” Anastasi said. “She was my older sister and I adored her.”
Tromp attended St. Agnes Academic High School in College Point and later went to Queens College.
Anastasi said her sister always wanted to be a teacher, but there was a lack of teaching jobs when she graduated from college. Tromp’s parents talked her into taking a job as an administrative assistant until she got an opportunity to teach.
She started at PS 79 as a teaching assistant and later started taking night classes at St. John’s University to get her master’s degree in teaching, all while raising two sons as a single mother.
PS 79 brought in substitute teachers Monday so all of Tromp’s colleagues could attend the funeral.
Tromp’s family suffered an eerily similar tragedy Nov. 9, 2007, when her mother Connie Anastasi died when she was ejected from her car in a two-vehicle accident in Broadway-Flushing.
After her mother died, Tromp started taking care of her 89-year-old father, Louis. She was on her way to buy food for him when she was struck by Zupnick, said her sister.
Zupnick told police he did not see Tromp coming as he approached the intersection and that he “was not paying attention to the speed of his vehicle,” according to the criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney. Zupnick’s license had been suspended nine times on at least five occasions, the last date occurring Nov. 26, the criminal complaint said.
“I was outraged. I thought a suspended license meant you would be kept off the road. I was taught driving was a privilege, not a right,” said Gene Tsapogas, Tromp’s fiancé of 15 years. “The laws need to change. If you get caught driving suspended, you should go to jail for a year.”
Zupnick was arraigned New Year’s Day and will next appear in court Feb. 3.
“We are heartbroken and sick over this,” Anastasi said. “My 89-year-old father just aged another 30 years. This exhausted him.”
Anastasi said she wanted to thank all the students, parents, teachers, friends and family members who came to say goodbye to Tromp.
“I’ve never seen such a big outpouring of people,” she said. “I just want them all to know how much we appreciate their support and their love.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.