When Lee Iacocca, one of most-recognized business leaders in U.S. history, died July 2, the news was global. Guest House’s chaplain, Father George Hazler, knew Iacocca as a member of St. Hugo of the Hills Parish and concelebrated his Mass of Christian Burial at the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan parish on July 10.
Iaccocca, who rescued Chrysler from bankruptcy in 1979 then starred in TV ads throughout the 1980s, was a best-selling author, was asked to run for President of the United States and the U.S. Senate and is considered the father of the Ford Mustang and the minivan. He also spearheaded efforts to restore the Statue of Liberty and to bring American Motors Corp., Jeep and Chrysler together.
Father George, Guest House’s chaplain, appreciated Iacocca as “a really good human being… faithfully attending the 9:00 Sunday Mass. Be it in church or coming to know him through his books, Lee Iacocca stood out in my mind as an authentic and humble human being.”
They met in 1986 after Mass one Sunday morning when Father George mentioned growing up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and later serving as a priest in neighboring Allentown, where Iacocca grew up.
While teaching and speaking, Father George frequently quotes from Iacocca’s best-selling book, Iacocca: An Autobiography: “In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: People, product and profits. People come first. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.’’
The funeral Mass was concelebrated by four priests, including Iacocca’s pastor from the later years of his life spent in California. He requested his funeral to be held in the Stone Chapel where he attended Mass for many years but instead the family honored him at a private service in the Stone Chapel followed by the funeral Mass in the main church to accommodate his many friends and admirers. The funeral was televised and received widespread media coverage.
“It was an honor and a privilege for me to concelebrate his funeral Mass,’’ Father George said.