JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City Councilman, former mayor and longtime public servant Tommy Hazouri was laid to rest Thursday after stories were told about his loyalty to Jacksonville and his friends, many told with humor.
Hazouri died Saturday after developing complications from a lung transplant. He was 76 years old.
“The outpouring of love (the family has) received has been more than they could possibly convey to you,” the church’s associate pastor, Jeff Arnold, told the congregation.
Hazouri’s family, a longtime friend and his former pastor offered heartfelt remembrances during the service.
Clearly, Hazouri loved being mayor and his other service to Jacksonville and the state.
“He was a champion for the little guy and equal rights,” said Danny Lee, who had known Hazouri since high school. “Hardheaded? Yep. Brash? Sometimes. Stubborn? Always, especially if he thought he was right and doing the right thing for his constituents. Loyal friend? To the very end.”
We heard about his loyalty and how it extended to many in Hazouri’s political life, which started in high school, continued into college and throughout his adult life -- a career that made him well known in the community.
“He was late everywhere,” cousin Larry Hazouri said. “It didn’t make much difference if it was a movie or restaurant, he was always late. I thought about him when he passed and I said, ‘I know Lord put his hands out to welcome him to the kingdom of heaven. He was probably running a few minutes late.’”
Dana Edmonds reminisced about going out in public with her uncle.
“We will go out to dinner. As many of you know, he would speak to every person in the restaurant. Everyone,” Edmonds said. “Stranger was not in that man’s vocabulary. He truly loved people.”
Following the funeral, a procession wove through Mandarin neighborhoods that Hazouri lived in and loved before ending at Oaklawn Cemetery. His flagged-draped casket was carried to its final resting place as a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office honor guard saluted and bagpipes played Amazing Grace. The brief graveside service was followed by “Taps.”
“Tommy was exactly what I believe Jesus put here,” fellow City Councilman Reggie Gaffney. “He was a servant and, regardless of whatever task that God had given him, he made sure that he completed that.”
Gaffney said some of Hazouri’s most admirable qualities were his humility and charity.
“What I love about him, he just didn’t hang around the riches. He went down to the gutter and dealt with those that God called ‘the least of them,’ always trying to give a helping hand, and that is what Jacksonville is going to miss,” Gaffney said.
Something else Jacksonville is going to miss are the one-liners Hazouri was famous for -- including jokes about his own hairpiece. Edmonds told the story of how Hazouri did just that while talking to a man in a discount dollar store.
“It was extremely obvious the man had on his head a clump of hair that was meant to be a hairpiece,” Edmonds recalled. You all know uncle Tommy, and he could not contain himself. So midstream in a conversation with the man and uncle Tommy said in true Tommy fashion: ‘Did you get that hair peace here?’”
Other politicians like Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown said that humor was just part of Hazouri.
“Tommy always has something positive to say. I don’t care what it was, positive it was always,” Brown said. “A devilish little humor about him that I loved and then there was the seriousness of taking care of the people, and he took it very seriously.”
By order of Gov. Ron DeSantis, flags were flown at half-staff Thursday at the Duval County Courthouse, Jacksonville City Hall and at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee in Hazouri’s honor.
The city said Hazouri spent his final days receiving hospice care at home -- at peace, surrounded by his family and friends laughing and reminiscing.
An intimate visitation was held for family and friends Wednesday evening at the Hardage-Giddens Oaklawn Chapel on San Jose Boulevard.
“He was very alert. He knew it was us. He joked with us. He was, of course, on oxygen, but we were very glad we got to go see him. At that time, I had no idea he’d go so quickly,” former school board chairwoman Kris Barnes said.
Hazouri was born and raised in Jacksonville and spent his adult life serving the people. He was first elected to office in 1974. He served as mayor from 1987-1991. He held four different state and local elective offices over more than four decades.
“That’s what Tommy was about. His main goal was to serve the people. He grew up on the second floor above his parents’ grocery shop. It’s a remarkable story, among Tommy’s many others. I’m going to really miss my friend,” Councilman Matt Carlucci said. “Tommy Hazouri made a lot of history in Jacksonville. For some people, it will be a celebration. For some, it will be saying goodbye. For some, it will be a little of both and some tears involved.”
Jacksonville City Council is considering a bill filed by Carlucci that would rename City Council Chambers in Hazouri’s honor.
Tributes continue to pour in for the longtime public servant. Former Mayor Alvin Brown said he was out of town when Hazouri passed and will be for the funeral, but he didn’t let that stop him from making his feelings known.
“One thing I love about Tommy is that if he has something on his mind, he wants to get it done. He’s also going to tell you about it. He’s a straight shooter,” Brown said. “You may not agree with him all the time, but he is going to tell it like it is. But it was always for the city, and that’s another thing I’ll miss. You really need good people in public office -- someone who really cares about the people first and foremost. That’s what Jacksonville will miss, but his spirit will always live on because of his body of work.”
During the service, wooden medallions were handed out highlighting two issues Hazouri tackled as mayor: Tolls and odor.