A memorial service was held for University of Tampa alumnus Doug Kozar Saturday morning, two weeks after he was killed in an accident on Harbour Island Bridge.
Kozar’s friends and coworkers gathered on the bridge, which was closed to traffic, to honor his life with the loved ones he has left behind.
Phil Henehan met Kozar in McKay Hall his freshman year at UT and they had remained close friends ever since.
“Doug loved to have fun,” said Henehan, Kozar’s roommate at the time of the accident.
He enjoyed the outdoors, specifically Outward Bound, a program that focuses on character building and leadership training through wilderness expeditions. Kozar’s father, Russell, explained that the program was one of the best things to ever happen to his son.
Kozar even had the Outward Bound logo tattooed on his right arm. According to his father, he considered it among his most prized possessions.
“Whenever he was in the sun, he asked for SPF-30 to cover [the tattoo] and nothing else,” Russell said.
The logo blended with a tattoo of Kozar’s family crest, representing the pride he had for his Russian heritage and where he came from.
Along with his passion for the outdoors, “Doug loved to drink beer,” said friend Peggy Chambers, laughing. Although a loyal Natural Ice drinker, Kozar did not take his partying too far.
“He never got drunk,” Henehan said. “Doug was always the good one.”
Henehan even recalled a few instances when Kozar looked after others that had a little too much to drink.
“He was always there whenever you needed him,” Chambers said. “He was always the first person to help.”
Friends Christina Bonanno and Taylor Asermely were at the memorial Saturday morning.
They agreed Kozar was one of the best friends they could have asked for. Whether it was strapping a bed to the top of their car or answering a crying phone call at 2 a.m., Kozar was there.
Known by others for his bright smile and constant willingness to help, Kozar was raised to think of others. Kathleen, Kozar’s mother, said that thinking of others was one of the main lessons she taught him.
“I know that he did that with his life,” Kathleen said. “It was evident here by seeing everyone today.”
Kozar had just finished his shift at the Waterside Marriott Hotel Saturday, Oct. 30 when he was hit walking to his car.
Kozar and coworker Kate Kohlier were killed on impact. Matthew Moye, 34, a local dentist, was arrested on the scene.
He was charged with two counts each of vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter and one count each of DUI with injury and battery on a law enforcement officer. Moye was released from jail on $119,000 bail the same weekend.
“When a drunk driver kills someone, you’re not just killing that person,” Kathleen said. “You’re ruining the lives of everyone that they loved.”
A Tampa detective called Kozar’s parents hours after the accident to inform them of what had happened.
Russell said that he and Kathleen sat at the edge of their bed and cried, unable to make sense of what they had just heard.
He explained that the worst thing a parent can go through is losing a child.
“You always hear that it’s a nightmare if you ever get that call in the middle of the night or the morning,” Russell said. “Well, we got the call. … We will never be the same.”
According to those who knew him best, it was evident by the way that Kozar lived that he loved his family, friends, and life.
“When he crossed the border to Florida I think [Doug] told my wife, ‘I’m never going back. I’m going to stay here forever,’” Russell said. “This was his home.”
Kozar was buried on Nov. 4 in Hudson, NY, with his family and friends by his side.
“All I ever wanted to be in life was a mother,” Kathleen said. “And although I have another son, Matthew, a piece of the puzzle will be missing forever.”
Josh Napier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.