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What we leave behind

jonmozo.jpgA friend of mine died more than a year ago. His name was Jon Mozo. He was a prolific ocean photographer who died off the famed Banzai Pipeline last February. Jon was 33. He left behind a wife and four young children.

I first met Jon ten years ago. He was an aspiring shooter––a local boy who spent time pounding the pavements of NYC and finally decided to plant his roots back in Hawaii.

I was a freshman creative director of an ad agency in Honolulu, and was fortunate enough to work with Jon on a few of his first commercial gigs. His talent was obvious. But his character, it was magical. My wife would describe him as a "glowie"—someone that radiated happiness, yet was so humble and soft-spoken.

It was no surprise that 1,500 people attended Jon’s funeral.

Years ago, I sat with Jon on a grassy Molokai cliff, eating lunch, taking a break from a 3-day shoot. We talked about our kids. We both had three at the time, all very young, both of us crammed into little condo apartments with our young families. Jon offered to watch our kids the next time we were in town, even though at the time, he and his family lived in a tiny two-room apartment. Jon loved kids. He called them his retirement. "When I’m old, that’s the only thing that will matter to me, my family," were his words.

When Jon died, I had a hard time getting my brain around it. He was too young. Left too much behind. But I found solace in his wife’s words: "If he had a list of dreams, I think they'd all be checked off," she said. "I don't think he had any regrets. I feel like he was ready. He knew it was coming and it was ok."

And you know, I believe her now.

Today I received an invitation to a benefit for the Jon Mozo Legacy Foundation at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu. Proceeds will go toward building a youth center in Hauula, college scholarships, and cultural exchanges.

As Memorial Day approaches, Jon’s death is starting to make sense. Among Hawaii’s traditional gods are some modern legends. Eddie Aikau. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. I’m happy to see Jon live on in such good company.


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Reader Comments (10)

I've only met a few people in my entire life who exude happiness like you described, as if it were contagious and completely natural.

Sounds like he was a great guy, and glad to see that his memory will live on his children and his foundation.
May 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjackt
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death; nor yet canst thou kill me.

A beautiful post, Jamie. Your friend sounds like a fine man.
May 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm.g. tarquini
Terrific post, Jamie.

May 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Hurtubise
You have to admire Nikki Mozo for getting a foundation up and running to benefit others and honor her husband's legacy. I work with endowment and foundations professionally and understand how much effort it takes. Thanks for sharing Jon's work with us.
May 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjd
Jon sounds like such a wonderful human being. You are lucky to have known him, for sure. Thanks for sharing his legacy with us. The Honolulu Advertiser article provides a great glimpse into his persona too. Truly admirable.
May 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBhaswati
Jon was an amazing guy.

Among his adventures was an attack by a tiger shark off Goat Island (Hawaii) in 1993. If you ever watch Shark Week on the Discovery Channel you'll see a segment about Jon.

He was surfing and was bumped then bitten, leaving him in a wheelchair for two months with 100+ stitches on his legs.
May 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
I can see his happiness from those photos you posted, Jamie.

When someone dies, it's those of us left behind that hurt the most, very bittersweet.
May 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdana
I came across your site when looking up info for Jon's upcoming celebration.

I too feel so very privelaged to have been Jon's friend. I have cried with people who had only met him once, yet such a brief encounter was unforgettable. There are few people that have touched my heart as he did. We met as 18-year old college freshmen and worked together for years, developing our talent in photography.

Jon was incredibly genuine, sincere, spiritual and giving. He lived life to the fullest, always sharing his appreciation for his blessings.

Just 5 days before his passing, we gathered at a friend's house for our annual Valentines Dinner. Before the evening ended, he gave us gifts of his photography and quietly expressed himself through his art -this desire to share the beauty that he has experienced in nature and life.

I believe Jon left his light with whomever he met. He had a mission in life which continues today. He inspired us to be more, to see more, and to love more. I can still see his beautiful smile. I will never forget him.
May 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRamona
I just read the blog that is almost 2 years old now. I don't know if this will even get to you but if it does I just wanted to say thank you for the beautiful words. Thank you for reminding me how special he was and is. I have to put his goodness away from me so that I do not miss him so much. But tonight, I smiled instead of cried and I felt his spirit as I thought of the conversations you had together. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Please feel free to keep in touch. Jon would like that.
Aloha, Nikki Mozo
March 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternikki mozo
Got it Nikki. Thanks for the kind words. Much aloha to you and your family.
March 9, 2008 | Registered CommenterJamie

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