The mournful skirl of bagpipes filled the air outside St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church in Howard Beach on Thursday, Oct. 26, as the NYPD held its line of duty death funeral for Krystyna Naprawa, the 63-year-old school crossing guard who was struck and killed by a dump truck driver near the border of Woodhaven and Ozone Park on Friday, Oct. 20.
Hundreds of NYPD officers joined school crossing guards and traffic agents along 157th Avenue, where they gave a final salute to their colleague who lost her life while protecting the lives of children.
Council Member Joann Ariola knew Naprawa personally, having lived in the same neighborhood in Lindenwood.
“Krystyna Naprawa was a true asset to our community, and represented the very best of what we stand for as Americans,” Ariola said following the funeral. “After immigrating to this nation from Poland, Krystyna went to work as a crossing guard with the NYPD, spending each day protecting local school children while pursuing the American Dream. Her loss has affected us all deeply, and I will continue to pray for her and her family during this difficult time.”
Inside St. Helen’s, the fallen crossing guard was eulogized by NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban.
“The role of a school crossing guard has inherent risk,” Caban said. “Krystyna knew this all too well. She was actually struck by a car once in her career before, but went back to work that very same day. That’s just the kind of person she was. Such incredible devotion is rare. The NYPD was blessed to count her amongst New York’s finest.”
Caban recalled how Naprawa emigrated from Poland to pursue the American dream in the early ’90s and worked as a cleaning lady until she saved enough to bring her young family to the United States. Her son joined the NYPD and later moved to the Port Authority Police Department where he continues to serve and her daughter graduated from St. John’s University and is now a pharmacist.
After the death of her husband in 2007, Naprawa was driven to serve her community and in 2010 she became a crossing guard, and she was at her usual post at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard and had just helped a group cross the roadway when she was struck and killed in the crossway.
“She was a natural how friends and colleagues would tell you that she had an incredible, incredible presence,” Caban said. “She took charge. always focused on the children, keeping them safe at all times. Rain or shine. She was there. On post. Always alert.”
Naprawa worked out of the 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill for nearly 13 years before she was killed while protecting children. When Mayor Eric Adams entered St. Helen’s Church for the funeral service, he was approached by a family member of another school crossing guard who died in the line of duty.
“As I walked in today, a daughter stopped me and she stated that many years ago her mother was killed while she was a school crossing guard,” Adams said. “My commitment to you today is on behalf of your mother. I’m going to sit down with my lawmakers and examine and put in place real safeguards to save and protect the lives of our school crossing guards.”
His message was greeted by a round of applause from school crossing guards who worked with Naprawa and the Local 237 union leaders who represent them. She was laid to rest in St. John Cemetery in Middle Village.
“At the funeral, we remembered the life and service of Krystyna Naprawa, a truly remarkable individual,” state Sen. Joseph Addabbo said after the funeral. “We gathered together with her family, friends, co-workers, the NYPD, community members and leaders to honor her memory. We took a moment to express our appreciation for Krystyna’s efforts as a crossing guard, to match her appreciation to protect school children. Her commitment to the safety of our children and her unwavering dedication to her duties should inspire us all. We owe it to her to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our streets and protect those who work tirelessly to keep our community safe, like our school crossing guards.”