Everyone is talking about the William F. Cribari Bridge. That’s the official name of the historic 133-year-old swing span over the Saugatuck River. Yet many Westporters still use the old name: the Bridge Street Bridge.
That’s a shame.
William Cribari — or “Crobar,” as he was universally known in his native Saugatuck — was quite a guy.
He was a World War II vet. Serving under General George S. Patton, he took part in the invasions of Normandy, Sicily and North Africa. He also served in the Battle of the Bulge.
But that’s not why the bridge is named after him.
For more than 30 years, Cribari was a special police officer. He walked the beat on Main Street, and directed traffic at both the pre-light Riverside/Saugatuck Avenue intersection, and the Post Road by Kings Highway Elementary.
But that’s not why the bridge is named after him either.
His greatest fame came when he was shifted to Riverside Avenue, at the entrance to the Manero’s (now Rizzuto’s) parking lot.
There — with a smile, a theatrical wave and more than a few dance steps — he masterminded rush hour traffic through the heart of Saugatuck. Much of it went over the Bridge Street — now William F. Cribari — Bridge.
He was much more than a traffic cop, of course. Cribari’s full-time job was tool crib operator for Nash Engineering. He was a longtime Westport PAL volunteer, and a Knight of Columbus. He attended every Army-Navy football game from 1946 on.
At 12 years old he joined the Saugatuck Volunteer Fire Department as a snare drummer. He remained a life member.
More than 30 years later, he became drum major for both the Nash Engineering Band — marching every year in the Memorial Day parade — and the Port Chester American Legion Band.
In 2003, Cribari and his wife Olga were honored as grand marshals of Festival Italiano. That annual event was held in Luciano Park — not far from where he was born at home in 1918, and just around the corner from where generations of commuters learned to love Westport’s greatest traffic cop.
Cribari died on January 30, 2007, at 88.
A decade later his name lives on, through his namesake bridge.
Let’s all make sure his legend does too.