A reader wrote to ask me to post this news story. Faz Husain, the popular owner of Ann Arbor pizza store Hello Faz Pizza, passed away last week from lung disease. I have re-posted the Ann Arbor News story below.
Mourners flock to funeral for ‘just a pizza guy’
Faz Husain recalled for his many kind acts and concern for others
Saturday, March 11, 2006
BY JO COLLINS MATHIS
News Staff Reporter
Jon Strite planned to visit Faz Husain at the University of Michigan Hospital Friday afternoon with a big surprise. After reading that Husain was dying of a lung disease, Strite asked Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje to write a proclamation honoring Husain for many things, including enriching “the lives of every person he encounters.”
Husain, the gregarious pizza store owner who enjoyed the spotlight and collected pictures of himself with celebrities, would have loved it.
But instead of taking the proclamation to Husain’s hospital bed Friday, Strite took it to his funeral.
Husain, widely known in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area, died Thursday evening at the University of Michigan Hospital, his immediate family at his side and his large extended family in the hall. He was 54.
“He was the type of guy nobody could ever dislike,” said his cousin, Afraz Ahmed of Ypsilanti, whose deep voice and Indian accent are nearly identical to Husain’s. “He was always optimistic and loving. We will miss him immensely.”
Husain moved from India to Ypsilanti 40 years ago when his father was recruited for a job at Eastern Michigan University.
Kevin Kerr remembers his fellow Ypsilanti High School student as the same outgoing, loving guy as he was until the end.
“There wasn’t anybody who wasn’t his friend,” Kerr said.
Over the years, Husain got a big kick out of meeting and being photographed with celebrities, from Muhammad Ali to Bill Clinton to Queen Elizabeth. He was working on a book about how to meet famous people.
Husain was a member of the Ypsilanti City Council in the early 1980s, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor. He owned several pizzerias over the years, the latest of which is Hello Faz Pizza on West Liberty Street in Ann Arbor.
Local sports teams received countless pizzas from Husain at cost that they sold at fundraising concessions.
Many in the Ann Arbor Public Schools were upset Friday morning to hear that Husain had passed away, said Mary Anne Jaeger, principal of Dicken Elementary School. She called Husain a community icon and said people will miss the “Faz love” he dished out.
Strite, a physical education teacher and coach at Slauson Middle School, recalled how eagerly Husain helped the schools any way he could. He said he had been in the process of getting Husain a proclamation as honorary mayor of Ypsilanti.
When Manish Mehta of Ann Arbor read of Husain’s terminal illness in The Ann Arbor News last month, he arranged an ecumenical prayer/meditation service. Husain, a Muslim, often talked of God and spiritual matters, and was a big believer in unity among people of all faiths.
Mehta met Husain years ago at a U-M football game when he gave his sons a free pizza. “Since then, I have followed the achievements of this very special do-gooder,” he said. “As an Indian-American, I have also supported Faz on a couple of his altruistic acts, which have ranged from collecting clothing donations for his mid-1990s visit to Mother Teresa’s ashram in India, to helping disaster victims locally. He exemplified the diversity and caring nature of Ann Arborites with his flamboyant acts intended to serve humanity.”
Husain read the obituaries every day in The Ann Arbor News, and attended hundreds of funerals over the years to show the grieving family his support.
Ahmed said his cousin’s funeral Friday at the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor was standing-room-only, with people waiting outside. About 500 people attended the burial at Highland Cemetery in Ypsilanti. The family plans to hold a memorial service next week, and will announce details when they are finalized.
In an interview with The News at his house last month, Husain said that he had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable, untreatable scarring of the lung.
Husain said he would have liked to grow older, and especially regretted leaving behind his 11-year-old son, Ismail, a sixth-grader at Slauson Middle School, and his wife, Nikki, whom he wed in an arranged marriage in India in 1977.
Other survivors include his son, Ali, 22, a University of Michigan senior, and his daughter, Nadia, 26. Husain had spent years trying to find a man he believed was good enough for his daughter. She married Naumaan Mallhi last month in a wedding moved up so that her father could attend. He wasn’t well, but he was there.
In the recent interview, Husain said he was satisfied knowing he did as much as he could for as long as he could.
“I’m just a pizza guy,” he said. “But I hope I’ll leave a loving mark.”