By Aliyah Rawles
Heavily armored fighting machinery—that’s what comes to mind when you think of a tank.
This “Tank,” however, happens to be Robert Allen, a longtime security officer at New Community who retired in May and received the nickname “Tank” while playing semi-pro football years ago.
Contrary to a vehicle used in combat zones, Allen seems to only be heavily armed with good manners.
Director of Security Prentiss Thompson said that Allen was “an officer that you could always depend on, rain or shine.”
“He commanded respect and he gave respect,” Thompson added.
Allen, 80, worked for numerous buildings across the New Community network—the former Homes Court, Harmony House, the Extended Care Facility, and St. Joseph Plaza.
Founder Monsignor William J. Linder said that Allen started at New Community by providing him with personal security on a volunteer basis. He accompanied Monsignor to public meetings that often got heated during a time when the city was in upheaval. “He was so faithful. That’s why we hired him,” Monsignor said.
Allen worked at New Community for a total of 40 years, though formally on the books he has been recognized for 30 years. Security officer Phillip Cobbs worked at New Community for nine years, including six years serving alongside Allen.
He described Allen as a very respectful person who is also funny and influential. When asked what was the best thing about Allen, Cobbs said that he would always give him advice. He would tell Cobbs that despite the use of technology and security cameras, he always needed to remain visible. “The uniform is what represents you,” Cobbs recalled Allen’s constant reminder to him.
Prior to coming to New Community, Allen worked at the Newark Housing Authority until retiring in 2001.
He worked various positions such as maintenance, truck driving and heavy construction, having landed the job through a referral from Joe Chaneyfield, an original board member of New Community.
Chaneyfield bestowed Allen with his enduring nickname at a point in Allen’s life when he weighed 300 pounds—he played offensive guard and defensive tackle—and was significantly heavier than he is now. When Allen stopped working at the housing authority, he turned his focus entirely on New Community. He devoted a lot of his time, sometimes unpaid hours even, which exemplified his loyalty and dedication. “I broke this place in,” Allen said with a smile.
Born on March 14,1936, Allen grew up in North Carolina as the eldest of five children. His family moved to New Jersey after his father served in the Marine Corps, he said. He attended East Side High through the tenth grade and married his first wife, Sadie, at age 18. They had five children together but later separated. Allen was later remarried to Robin Blanding.
Cobbs said that Allen continues to be a positive figure in his life and thinks of him more like family than an ex-coworker. He was a “cool dude” as well as role model, according to Cobbs.