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Strongest honor Whitestone man killed in Astoria

Frank Justich worked at the city Sanitation Department for only 11 years, but the Whitestone father was a humble man who brought energy to his fellow workers day after day, according to the people who knew him.

On Monday, hundreds of New York’s strongest gathered at St. Luke’s Church in Whitestone to pay tribute to Justich, along with his family and elected officials, just days after he was killed in the line of duty on an Astoria street. On Jan 26, Justich, 41, was struck by a tractor-trailer at the corner of 35th Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard as he was collecting trash from the curb.

Sanitation Commissioner John J. Doherty said Justich’s accident saddened the entire department because he was well-known and worked hard to help clean the streets of Queens. Doherty described the scene surrounding the hospital, where Justich was taken after the crash.

“There were sanitation trucks all over the neighborhood; every man in that district was at the hospital,” he told the mourners, some of whom saw the funeral from outside the church after the pews were packed.

Justich had lived in Whitestone for several years, according to City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who met with Justich’s family after his death and attended the funeral with fellow Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-Jackson Heights) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“He had a lot of friends and family here,” Halloran said.

Justich left behind his wife, Stacy; two daughters, Faith, 4, and Felicity, 1; and his brother and mother. Stacy received a flag from the Sanitation Department following the funeral service moments after six doves were released into the air.

Doherty told mourners that the city will be retiring Justich’s badge, No. 11444, and the Queens West 1 station where he worked will be renamed in his memory. In addition, the sanitation commissioner said that he hoped one day, with Stacy’s permission, Justich’s portraits of co-workers that he painted and sketched would be hung at the garage.

“Nothing made him happier than seeing his little girls smile. And he’d do anything to make that happen – whether it was taking Faith to her dance classes or dressing up in a funny pirate costume for Felicity’s first birthday party,” the mayor said.

Two of the fallen worker’s colleagues spoke highly of Justich during the eulogy service. Michael Taylor, who worked with Justich for years, said he would always joke around and brighten his spirits anytime they had to work late or during heavy snow days.

“Through it all, we always had a lot of fun,” Taylor said.

Bloomberg said that although he never met the sanitation worker, he knew he was a valued city employee by the show of numbers at the memorial service.

“Frankie was the kind of guy who makes a city as big and bustling as New York feel like a small town. He turned our streets into neighborhoods and our neighbors into family. And when news of his passing rippled through Queens, families across the borough and throughout the entire city shed tears for the loss of one of their own sons,” the mayor said.

A fund has been set up to help the Justich family. For more information, log on to frankjustich.com.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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