As Tom Bazzicalupo walked the halls of the North Bellmore Public Library on Aug. 29, his emotions ran high. The director’s retirement was approaching, encouraging staff — some had worked alongside him for nearly three decades — to say their goodbyes.
“I’m really going to cry,” Bazzicalupo said as he fought back tears and embraced library artist Cor-inne Thurau in the front lobby. Both started at the library in 1991, and they recounted several memories, from indulging in Thurau’s batches of freshly baked cookies to cooperatively planning children’s programs.
“Tom always treated us like family,” Thurau said in a later interview. “He was always compassionate to anybody — children, adults, [the] elderly.”
Bazzicalupo’s final day at the library was Aug. 31, concluding a career spanning more than 28-years. He was first hired as head of the children’s department on Feb. 4, 1991 — he remembers the exact date — after initial plans to become a kindergarten teacher.
For Bazzicalupo, 55, enriching the lives of children has always been a passion, he said. When faced with a group of children, “I just brought fun,” he said. “The nuttier I act, the more fun they have.”
Bazzicalupo studied at Suffolk County Community College and the State University of New York at Cortland. Stints at the Commack Public Library and the Lindenhurst Me-morial Library changed his goals, though, and he went on to pursue a master’s in library and information science at C.W. Post.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said, adding that he had no regrets. “I never would’ve worked here if I became a teacher, and I’m still very happy.”
While sitting in his newly renovated office, which was crowded with packed-up brown boxes, Bazzicalupo spoke about the library programs that he helped to create. The Teddy Bear Picnic, he recalled, is two hours of fun filled with teddy graham crackers, juice and a teddy bear craft project. He and children shared plenty of laughs as they compiled jokes for end-of-the-summer joke books. Younger patrons strutted their stuff in library talent shows. And the men’s club — for older patrons, who discussed health, politics and other heady topics — was spearheaded by Bazzicalupo, Thurau said.
He also led story time for so many Bellmore children. Trustee Barbara Fillios met Bazzicalupo after he read to her son during a session years ago. A trustee since 2004 — with her son now 31 — Fillios is one of many residents who saw Bazzicalupo as an ever-present figure.
“Tom was a key person” for the library, Fillios said. “Anything that happened there, he [had] his hands in it. He was a great all-around guy and will be sorely missed.”
“We’ll miss his presence,” Thurau said, which included being an “emotional support” for employees and constantly interacting with patrons. His efforts, she added, brought the community in.
“I can’t say enough good things about this community,” Bazzicalupo said. Longtime patrons, some of whom he has know since their childhood, “still come in and say hello. They’re always so welcoming and warm.”
Bazzicalupo plans to move to North Carolina with his wife and three children. He promised to carry with him the memory of library patrons. “I’ve been hearing everyone’s thanks and getting more hugs goodbye,” he said. “Things are wrapping up, but I’m ready.”