“Happiest man in heaven”: Alki crowd celebrates Hussein Khazaal

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.”

More than 80 tributes to Mr. Khazaal were posted in the comments following our first story last Sunday about his passing; read them here.

5 Replies to ""Happiest man in heaven": Alki crowd celebrates Hussein Khazaal"

  • Jeremiah August 15, 2009 (10:52 am)

    This is a perfect example of why I love living in this community.

  • condolences August 15, 2009 (11:35 am)

    “gratitude, love, joy and passion.” -thank you for this.

  • grr August 15, 2009 (10:24 pm)

    a beautiful tribute to a beautiful human being. You will be deeply missed.

  • Imei August 17, 2009 (4:41 pm)

    We absolutely loved this restaurant and Mr. Khazaal. My husband enjoyed talking to him many a time, and he always remembered us, even if our visits were infrequent. He will be missed.

  • Aida August 21, 2009 (10:09 pm)

    Life is a journey that can slam you so hard the pain seems as if it will last forever, but it also brings joy and happiness, making us feel special.

    I never met Hussein. But by attending his memorial and listening to people share their stories about him, I feel as if he’s taught me to be a better person. I’ve learned how great a human being can be.

    For the past three years, I’ve been trying so hard to be someone I’m not just to impress people. One day, William, Hussein’s son, told me, “Be your best.” I didn’t fully understand what he meant until now.

    Be your best. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to impress anyone. Just put your heart and soul into everything you do. Be kind, be humble, be selfless, and be joyful. Make someone else’s day happy by doing little things for and being supportive of people all around you. Be loving and caring.

    We all want to be happy, but we try to be happy in different ways. I’ve learned that if I want to be happy, I just need to make someone else’s day a little happier. And it’s not to get compliments or show how good a person I am. It’s for myself, to make myself happier and more peaceful. It’s such a joy to learn to become a better human being, to make this world a little better place for others. Try it, and you’ll be at peace.

    That’s what I’ve learned from Hussein.

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