On the night when the family should have been celebrating the anniversary of Hussein Khazaal‘s marriage to wife Inaam – exactly 40 years earlier – rather than celebrating his life after his too-early death, his daughter Nadia (left) said she’s sure he is the “happiest man in heaven right now.” Tributes to, and memories of, that man – gone suddenly at just 63, after spending more than half his life at the helm of a cherished restaurant, known most recently as Phoenecia at Alki – surrounded a photo on one of several easels at last night’s memorial.
A burst of evening sunshine broke through the clouds as hundreds of friends and family members – including Phoenecia customers – gathered on the Alki waterfront a few blocks west of the restaurant:
Among them, Jason Grotelueschen, who described Mr. Khazaal as “an amazing man with an amazing family” and sang the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”/”What a Wonderful World” medley in his honor:
For both those who considered him “a second father” and for the family he and Mrs. Khazaal created, he was remembered as someone who believed “nourishment for your children is number 1 in life” – and that meant much more than food, though the analogy ran through other open-mike tributes like these:
-“I do know (his) secret ingredient – gratitude, love, joy and passion.”
-“The restaurant, and food, were a vehicle for him, to teach how to be, in life.”
And so, the guests who came to the beach to celebrate him, were invited to join in a meal:
Other restaurateurs joined to help feed those in attendance – the names we saw included Husky Deli, Puerto Vallarta, Luciano’s.
Though the tables were draped in black, the mood was anything but mournful. The laughter that rippled through the crowd as some of the stories were told seemed to honor one observation in particular: “He was celebrating life, his entire life.”