Volume 78 - Number 49 / May 13 - 19 , 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Frank Russo, 90, P.A. officer, active at St. Anthony

By Albert Amateau

Frank A. Russo, a lifelong resident of Thompson St. in the South Village who retired about 30 years ago as Port Authority police officer assigned to the Holland Tunnel, died in St. Vincent’s Hospital Wed., May 6, a week after his 90th birthday.

Taken to the hospital with an abdominal blockage on Fri., May 1, he had improved by Sunday and expected to return home the following day, according to Jeffrey Rowland, a friend and neighbor. But he took a turn for the worse last Monday and was on a respirator until shortly before he died.

Frank Russo served as head usher at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan St. and was a devoted member of the Holy Name Society at St. Anthony’s. He was a member of the McBurney YMCA for more than 40 years and swam there regularly until earlier this year.

Born the son of Antoinette and Dominic Russo on Thompson St., he shared the house across the street with a younger sister, Victoria, who died three years ago.

“Frank lived on the fourth floor and would walk up and down 49 steps at least three times a day,” Rowland said. “He told me once that back in late ’20s when horse-drawn wagons were common in the neighborhood, kids on the block would hitch rides. He said he did, too, because he thought he was the only one responsible enough to see that no one got hurt,” Rowland said. “He had a neighborhood nickname, Frankie Reed. I don’t know where that came from, maybe because he was physically lean like a reed or a weed,” said Rowland.

Frank Russo was in the Army during World War II, serving in the Pacific from 1942 to 1946. He became a Port Authority patrolman after his discharge from the Army. He received a Port Authority commendation for his participation in the rescue efforts on the morning of May 13, 1949, when a drum of carbon disulfide fell from a westbound truck and caught fire in the tunnel. No one died at the scene, but 66 people suffered smoke injury and a firefighter died three months later of smoke inhalation.

“Frank was the kind of man who was always willing to help a neighbor,” Rowland said. 

He was also a friend and benefactor to the Franciscan nuns at the convent on Sullivan and Prince Sts. 

“He was like a guardian angel for the sisters,” said Sister Eileen Lambert, a longtime friend. “We’ll never see the likes of Frank Russo again.”

Three nephews, Domenic, Julius and Joseph Russo, and a niece, Lucianne Gildea, all of New Jersey, survive.

Perazzo Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. The funeral Mass was at St. Anthony’s on Saturday morning May 9 and burial will be in St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

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