NORTH FORK, NY —Standing on County Road 48 in Greenport Tuesday, Anthony Brown, wearing his hard hat and reflective vest, was a sight for sore eyes for the many drivers who passed by, honking their horns, smiling, calling out his name, and waving — always waving.
Brown, 53, spent three weeks in Southold and Greenport recently working on a roadwork project. He’s living proof that three weeks can change everything in a small town — and it all starts with a smile and a wave.
During the time that Brown was working on Route 48, social media was abuzz as residents sang his praises. “Have you met that nice worker who helps direct traffic on County Road 48?” “He brightens my day with that smile!”
“Can we all be a little more like Anthony? The world would be a much better place if we could,” one woman wrote.
Brown, when contacted by Patch, decided to head back to the North Fork Tuesday and talk about the experience that touched lives. A native of Bellport, he works for East End Building Services — a company he said he loves and wants to thank — which was contracted by National Grid for the project.
Roadwork in the middle of the hot summer, during peak traffic season on the North Fork, could spell disaster. But Brown said he set his mind to turning those frowns upside down.
“I wanted to make it easier for everyone to get up in the morning and go to work,” Brown said. “And I made the job easier for them — I put smiles on their faces and made their days good.”
Brown left Southold Town with scores of new friends, he said. “I met a lot of people. I’ve got a lot of friends on Facebook right now. I love them all. They’ve all touched my heart and I’ve touched their hearts.”
It didn’t take a lot more than simple kindness to change the mindset of a community, Brown said. “I said, ‘Good morning, have a good day,’ and that put a smile on their faces.”
When motorists coming through had problems, he took the time to listen. One woman was sobbing, on her way to a funeral. “She broke down crying in front of me. She had kids. I told her to be strong, not to break down, to store her strength for who she was going to see,” he said. “Another lady started crying for no apparent reason because I told her, ‘Good morning, ma’am. I love you. You have a good day.'”
Brown’s new friends stopped to bring him water, snacks, and even offered to take him to restaurants, he said. When he was back in Greenport Tuesday, motorists honked furiously, overjoyed at the sight of him. Even the ice cream man asked when he’d be back.
When asked how he kept his spirits up in the face of long, hot days and physically arduous work, Brown said he was led by his heart. He realized, he said, that people had long days to face— some of whom he had to wake early in the morning when he knocked on their doors, telling them they had to move their cars — and he set out to make their days just that much brighter with a kind word, a smile. Instead of drama, Brown said he advocates for peace and happiness.
And then, there was that signature wave that made him famous in Southold Town. “Every day, I waved. And I kept waving. Someone told me my arm was going to fall off, I waved so much, but if it falls off, let it fall off. It’s for a good cause.”
Brown, who is single with no children, has love to share. “I need to find a girlfriend,” he said, smiling.
But for now, he’s got plans to keep coming back to the North Fork, to the town that’s made him their own hometown hero. He was back this weekend and hopes to be back to fish.
“I love everyone here,” he said. “They’ve been tearing up my phone. One person told me, ‘Whatever the case may be, don’t let anybody get in the way of your happiness. You’re a good man with a good heart. We miss you and we want you to come back.’ And I want to come back.”
He smiled. “They said I should run for mayor here.”
Brown said he’d like to organize a reunion in Greenport for all his new friends; he welcomes all who are interested to reach out to him via Facebook.
When asked if he had a message for the many whose hearts he touched, Brown urged all to find peace and choose love over acrimony. “I love you all and I’ll always be there for you,” he said. “If you want me to come out and hang out and see you, I will come and visit my good friends. I will never let you go and I’ll always have faith in you.”
He added, “I appreciated everyone when I was here and I’m glad people appreciated me for who I am,” Brown said. “It makes me happy. It makes me proud. God sent me here to do this work.”