That photo is above a note on the door of the popular restaurant Phoenecia at Alki, telling this sad story: Owner Hussein Khazaal has died unexpectedly, and the restaurant is closed until further notice. This is a transcription of the unsigned note from his family – it is dated August 8th (yesterday):
To our customers:
This morning, West Seattle lost one of its finest residents.
Hussein Khazaal, my father and best friend, passed away in his sleep of natural causes.
While this loss is devastating to our family, we know how much he meant to the community as well.
Words cannot express the sorrow in our hearts in losing someone to whom we were so close. He was far too young to die but we are grateful he went peacefully.
Dad lived for his family, which included his patrons. The restaurant along, with his wife, children and grandchildren, were everything to him.
Anyone who ever had the pleasure of knowing him can vouch for me when I say, he never had a selfish moment in his life. You, our dearest customers, were what made him happy. The looks on your faces as he took you to paradise with his culinary masterpieces brought him great pride and joy. We thank you for indulging him and letting him “prepare something special” for you.
We are not sure where we will go from here. There is a possibility we will reopen Phoenecia. We are confident we can prepare the food; we are just not sure how we have it in us to run the business he built without him by our side or if we can provide the same magical atmosphere our beloved Hussein did. Our decision will take time, thought and discussion.
Regardless of the fate of Phoenecia, we know Hussein will live on. Whenever one person performs an act of kindness to another, Hussein lives on. Wherever there is generosity, Hussein lives on. Wherever there is beauty in the simplest of things, Hussein lives on.
A memorial will be held within the week. We have not yet determined the location. However, if you would like to attend, you may e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you information regarding the time and place.
Lastly, if you are wondering if there is anything you can do for us … there is. If you have any warm thoughts or stories you would like to share with us about Hussein or Phoenecia, please e-mail them to me at email@example.com. Your words will be of great comfort to our family.
We will be in touch soon regarding our decision as to the fate of Phoenecia.
Till then we thank you so much for your patronage over the years, as did Hussein. We consider you part of our family. Thank you.
Just this summer, Seattle Metropolitan magazine hailed his restaurant as one of the Best of 2009. Mr. Khazaal first opened in The Junction in the ’70s, and also operated in Queen Anne before bringing Phoenecia back to West Seattle at its current Alki location.
He was 63 years old. (Thanks to those who called and e-mailed this afternoon to let us know about Mr. Khazaal’s death.) MONDAY NOTE: Here’s our followup story with funeral/memorial information.