‘She cast a large, loving shadow on Hazel Park’

Officials celebrate the life of former mayor Jan Parisi

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 5, 2021

 Jan Parisi

Jan Parisi

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HAZEL PARK — Jan Parisi, a former mayor of Hazel Park and the first woman to hold the role, died at age 69 on Oct. 25.

She first joined the Hazel Park City Council in the early 2000s — part of the longest intact council in the history of Hazel Park, sometimes dubbed the “Long Council.”

In 2014, Jack Lloyd, the mayor at the time, resigned for personal reasons. Parisi took his place and was later elected as well, making history as Hazel Park’s first female mayor.

She served until 2017 when she stepped down due to health reasons and a desire to spend more time with family.  

“Jan Parisi was a brave and dedicated public official. She was never afraid to stand up for what she believed in,” said Ed Klobucher, the city manager of Hazel Park, in an email. “As a member of the Long Council with Mike Webb, Andy LeCureaux, Jeff Keeton and Jack F. Lloyd, Jan Parisi made many difficult decisions that helped navigate Hazel Park through some very tough times. Jan was an important part of our city’s history, and she will be missed.”  

Jeffrey Keeton, the mayor pro tem at the time, became mayor after Parisi. He would later hand over the reins to another councilmember, Mike Webb. Parisi moved to Warren in 2018.

Parisi was born July 15, 1952 in Huntington, West Virginia. She was the second of six siblings — three boys and three girls. In an interview with the Madison-Park News in 2014, Parisi recounted how she moved to Hazel Park when she was 14, although her parents and four younger siblings had moved there a couple years earlier.

She and her older brother had stayed behind in West Virginia, living with her grandparents there until the money situation was stable. Like many at the time, her parents were drawn to the jobs in Michigan. While her parents were setting up in Michigan, Parisi only saw them around the holidays, at Christmas and Easter. She would cry every time they left.

“It was very difficult what we had to do but my parents always made sure we knew they loved us,” Parisi said in 2014. “I’m sure many other families in Hazel Park have similar histories. We’re strong people here, because we’ve had to be.”

When Parisi finally joined her family in Hazel Park, at their home on East Harry Avenue off Hughes Avenue, she attended Hazel Park High School. As an adult, she lived in a different house on East Harry Avenue, off John R Road. She managed a dental office in Huntington Woods for 30 years while raising three daughters.

Parisi went on to remarry, and continued to be actively involved in the community.

Around the time she first joined the council, she helped revive the city’s Beautification Awards that recognize homes for their curbside appeal. This then expanded to Neighborhood Enrichment, which has cultivated community gardens, organized garden tours and workshops, and contributed money to good causes like the Hazel Park Promise Zone, which provides college scholarships to every graduate of Hazel Park High.

She also helped shepherd into existence the city’s first dog park, something near to her heart as a proud dog owner and animal lover. She was also a strong supporter of the Special Olympics.

When she wasn’t volunteering or spending time with her family, she was enjoying her favorite hobbies: golfing, gardening, yoga, and going for walks.

At the time of her resignation, Hazel Park was undergoing a revival she helped orchestrate and that continues today, with record low crime rates, growing property values, and a bustling business and arts scene.   

Parisi is survived by her daughters Rebecca (Rudy) Sinn, Amy Strick, and April (Todd) Daenzer, and her grandchildren Tiffany, Hannah, Justin, Ben, Jake, Dylan, Christina, Savannah, and Abigail. She is also survived by her siblings Patrick (Lorraine) Thompson, Danny Thompson, Mark Thompson, Lisa (Mike) Lee, and Deanna (Dan) Thompson, and her cousin Judy Cox.

Hazel Park City Councilmember Alissa Sullivan recalled how when she and former Hazel Park City Councilmember Amy Aubry first ran for office, Parisi invited them over for coffee and a chat. Parisi endorsed both of their campaigns.

“She was known for being kind, and always having a smile and hug to greet you,” Sullivan said in an email. “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to know her, and that our community benefited from her leadership as our first female elected mayor.

“Upon hearing of her passing, I reached out to her daughter and asked where donations could be made in her honor,” Sullivan said. “I have since collected donations from my fellow council members and will be making a donation in her honor to HAVEN, as she was a domestic violence survivor. Our city is better for having had Jan Parisi as a part of it.”

Hazel Park Mayor Pro Tem Andy LeCureaux said that Parisi made a strong positive impression on all who met her.

“When I first met Jan Parisi in the spring of 2002, we were planting flowers on the hill at Nine Mile and John R. Planting flowers in our own yards is a passion we both shared,” LeCureaux said in an email. “She was president of Hazel Park Neighborhood Enrichment. I remember visiting the beautiful yards of residents on the garden tours that Jan started.

“As the first female mayor of Hazel Park, she brought that passion for the neighborhoods and the parks with her,” he said, noting there is now an art garden named after her on John R Road. “Jan was not a tall lady, but she cast a large, loving shadow on Hazel Park.”

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