A kind act leads to Anthony Causi billboard tribute

As you drive around New Jersey, it will be hard not to notice former Post sports photographer Anthony Causi looking down with a tiny grin from six billboards put up as a tribute from a friend.

How Drew Katz and Causi came to know each other is another example of how amazing a life Causi experienced before COVID-19 took the 48-year-old Brooklyn native away this past Sunday.

“My family used to own the New Jersey Nets and I met him six years ago at a Nets game, and he took a picture of my dad and me and it turned out to be the last picture my dad and I had together because my dad died a week later in a plane crash,’’ Katz told The Post in a phone call Tuesday evening. His father was Lewis Katz, a former Nets owner who died June 1, 2014. “He sent me the photo and I would see him at games. He was just one of the warmer, most special people. He was always smiling and made you laugh. He never missed a shot. He was unbelievable. He was kind and friendly and sweet.’’

Katz owns Interstate Outdoor Advertising and is paying his respect to Causi by putting a black and white picture of Causi with his camera and a caption that reads, “In Loving Memory, Anthony J. Causi, 1971-2020’’ on six billboards in New Jersey. They will run for a month.

“When he passed, I just thought about wanting to have people to pass by and look at the sign and think about him, that’s all,’’ Katz said. “I wanted it be a very simple message. We put it on a half a dozen billboards, by the Lincoln Tunnel and on the Turnpike, where I have inventory. I didn’t do it for any other reason other than to just pay my respects. I remember similar gestures when I lost my dad. I was hoping it would maybe just give an ounce of relief to lessen the pain to his beautiful wife and to their family.’’

There are two billboards in Rutherford, N.J., on Route 3 and another three-tenths of a mile East of the New Jersey Turnpike toll plaza at Exit 16 North. There is another on the Turnpike at Exit 9 in Edison and two in Oakland, N.J., on Interstate 287.

According to Katz, the last time he saw Causi was at a Nets game earlier this year.

Then on March 22, Katz texted Causi, who was in a Long Island hospital.

“He was scared and I just said to him, ‘You are going to be OK,’ and that was the last text. The next morning I texted him again, just checking on him, and I never heard back from him,’’ Katz said. “I can’t look at pictures of his family without getting very, very emotional. I totally understand there is such an extraordinary outpouring of love and connectivity to this man because he exudes warmth and he was just a good human being. There was nothing not to like about him.’’

Katz knew Causi, but wasn’t aware of how popular the photographer, who partnered with Charles Wenzelberg to form the best sports-photography team in the business, was with people.

“I had no idea the impact he had on so many people until he passed, but boy did he make an impact on me. He was just a really, caring thoughtful man,’’ said Katz, who recalled once walking a little too close to LeBron James while he was inbounding the ball and taking an elbow from the superstar. “The next thing you know, on my phone there is the shot.’’

Of course there was, and one of the million reasons people connected so well with a guy Katz thought so much of that he put Causi on his billboards.

Editor’s note: A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Causi family in the wake of Anthony’s passing. Please find it here.