Colleagues Pay Tribute to Doorkeeper

Posted April 16, 2008 at 4:34pm

Lou Costantino, a beloved member of the House security team, died of a heart attack on Saturday. He was 71.

A lifelong D.C. resident, Costantino came to the Capitol in 1980 to work in the Office of the Doorkeeper.

[IMGCAP(1)]He began in the gallery but in recent years manned the chamber’s front entrance — “the same door the presidents come in during the State of the Union,” Costantino told Roll Call in 2004.

Costantino was working last week; the chair at his post is draped in black this week, and a photo sits on it as a memorial to him.

His job was to ensure that only Members and others with floor privileges made it into the chamber. Costantino also delivered messages and documents to Members on the floor, and he escorted all the first ladies since Nancy Reagan to their gallery spots for the annual State of the Union address.

Costantino developed a number of relationships on the Hill.

“It’s the Lous of the world that are out there that I miss. They are the folks that make the place work and run,” former House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.) said in 2004. “There’s something very special about his appreciation about what goes on on Capitol Hill.”

Bill Sims, the House director of Chamber Security, worked with Costantino during his entire 28-year tenure. He recalled how Costantino loved to dress up as Santa Claus at his church and at the Sergeant-at-Arms and Clerk’s office holiday parties.

“He was a very uplifting, spiritual person,” Sims said. “Everybody that met him liked him.”

Costantino was also known for the 100 pounds of Italian sausage that he and a co-worker would whip up each year and distribute to friends and Members.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) was one Member who enjoyed the eats.

“Every time I’d see her, Ileana would say, ‘Where’s my sausage?’” recalled Richard Wilson, deputy director of House security.

Costantino “had a deep reverence for this institution and always conducted himself with honor and decency,” Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said Monday in a statement entered into the Congressional Record. “Whether it was a Member of Congress or a member of the public passing by the door to the floor, Lou treated everyone with equal respect and civility. He was an ambassador for the House of Representatives and the Capitol Hill neighborhood where he spent the majority of his life.”

Members of Congress were a part of Costantino’s life even before he came to work on the Hill.

In fact, Costantino got his opportunity to work in the Capitol when then-Rep. Gus Hawkins (D-Calif.) recommended him for the Doorkeeper’s job. Costantino owned a take-out store, Capitol Hill Carry Out, at the time, and a number of lawmakers had shopped there over the years. Then-Sens. John F. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.) and Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) had been among his patrons.

Costantino developed a reverence and sensitivity toward those he was charged to protect. “You can tell when there’s something wrong with them and you don’t disrupt them,” Costantino said in 2004.

Costantino grew up on New Jersey Avenue Southeast and attended Eastern High School on East Capitol Street. He was a lifelong member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where he married his wife, Doris, in 1965. “There’s been a Costantino at St. Peter’s for 100 years,” he was known to say.

Viewing will take place at St. Peter’s (313 Second St. SE) today from 4 to 8 p.m. The funeral Mass is Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Peter’s.