SADDLE BROOK, N.J. — In a way, Anthony Davanzo and Joseph Camilleri of Saddle Brook are more like family than friends.
The 23-year-olds have spent more than 18 years fostering their friendship since meeting in Kindergarten at the Helen I. Smith Elementary School.
They vacation together. They work out together. And last month, they mourned the loss of Davanzo's father -- Tony Davanzo -- who Camilleri says was like a father to him, too.
Last week, Davanzo and Camilleri became part of another brotherhood, the Saddle Brook Police Department, and they say their unbreakable bond will lend itself well to police work.
"We have a track record of working well together in various capacities," Camilleri said.
"We communicate superbly and hope to apply that level of mutual understanding to assist one another in learning the numerous aspects of our new occupation to best serve our community."
Camilleri and Davanzo's friendship began budding on Saddle Brook athletic fields, and continued even when the pair went their separate ways in college -- Davanzo to Bergen Catholic and Camilleri to Saddle Brook High School.
They reunited again at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y. -- along with their other longtime friend from Saddle Brook, Ronny Stecher.
It was there that Camilleri and Davanzo became roommates with a shared major in criminal justice. They studied for every exam together, landing them on the Dean's List nearly 10 times each.
The pair faced their first big hardship together in 2014, when the Pace Football Team had an abrupt change in leadership.
"We mutually agreed to pursue objectives that would broaden our horizon and increase our level of 'real world experience,'" Camilleri said.
Camilleri enlisted in the New Jersey Army National Guard, and Davanzo aggressively pursued internships with the U.S. Marshals Service and the Ossining Police Department.
As fate would have it, the friends began working together again last year, both for the New Jersey Corrections Department.
Just as the officers were preparing to be sworn into the Saddle Brook Police Department, Davanzo lost his father after a long battle with lung cancer.
Camilleri launched a GoFundMe campaign for his family, which has since amounted more than $14,000.
"Joe was like another son to my father," Davanzo said. "It was easy to talk with him about it... We care for each other and look out for each other like brothers so helping one another comes naturally."
"I am honored to have been treated as a member of the family by Tony Davanzo," Camilleri added.
"Tony's unbreakable mental toughness and continuous work ethic -- his two greatest virtues -- live on in his son and my brother, Anthony."
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