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Surfing Legend Given Colorful Memorial

April 06, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SEAL BEACH — Facing a sea of Hawaiian shirts and leis, a seven-piece mariachi band set the tone early Wednesday morning for a festive memorial to surf legend Jack Haley.

The memorial began in a parking lot close to the pier and ended at water's edge.

Haley, who died March 25 after a three-year battle with cancer, had left instructions with family and friends about the manner in which he should be remembered. No black attire. No organ music. Instead, mariachi and casual, colorful Hawaiian wear.

In a light fog, breaking at times for sunshine, the public memorial was attended by more than 500 people.

The service was capped by a wreath ceremony in the water, in which 70 surfers paddled past the surf and formed a circle. Tom Hermstad, 60, a friend of Haley's, was chosen to take the wreath on his board and drop it on the water in the middle of the circle.

"He would have loved this whole day," Hermstad said. "There were young guys, old guys, girls sharing whatever they were thinking."

Several speakers referred to the longtime Seal Beach resident , whose nicknames included Captain Jack, the Raven and Mr. Excitement, as a man with a contagious spirit of adventure.

"A lot of people don't know this, but my dad aspired to be a bullfighter," Sondra Haley said. "He made the most of every day."

Haley, who was 65, was inducted into the Surfing Hall of Fame and Walk of Fame in Huntington Beach two years ago. He was known for his community work, which included heading the fund-raising for the police substation named for him.

Pastor Bucky Dennis, a family friend from Mariners Church in Newport Beach, said he gave Haley a surfing analogy during the last days of his life.

"I told him the last wave was a different kind of wave," Dennis said. "This was a wave that you rode by faith, not by sight."

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