Kevin Sousa celebration of life also celebrates Hermosa Beach

Patti Feller Sousa releases purple smoke that husband Kevin released at the close of his concert performances. Photo by Ken Pagliaro (Ken

Sousa celebration of life celebrates Hermosa

by Kevin Cody

Among the many speakers who introduced themselves as Kevin Sousa’s best friend, Mike Collins was the only one to presume to know what Sousa would say to the estimated 500 mourners who gathered for his memorial paddleout Sunday morning at the Hermosa Beach pier. 

“Kevin would tell us to feel the sun, and the sand, taste the air and listen to the music,” Collins said.

The mourners dug their feet in the warm sand while Sousa’s acoustic recording of his “The Perfect Wave” played from the speakers

Gotta burn to feel alive

And as I die I will not go quiet

The perfect wave’s the one you’re on 

I’m riding on to a present state of mind

Collins’ presumption was rooted in the years he helped Sousa reach sobriety. 

“One day on the beach at 8th Street, as I was getting ready to paddle, he said he was going to paddle the Catalina Classic. I said, ‘Good, it will give you something to focus on.’ By then I was sick of his promises to stop drinking.”

“A few days later I get a call at 6 a.m. He said, ‘I got a paddleboard, let’s roll.’”

“I told him we’ll paddle parallel to the beach so you can get back to the beach if you bonk. He was six hours into sobriety. He said, ‘No, I want to go straight out a mile.’ By the time we reached the end of the pier there were tears and snot running down his face. I told him to paddle back to the beach. He said, ‘No man, we’re going out a mile.’” 

“Present State of Mind” was inspired by that paddle. The next year Sousa paddled the Classic, a 32-mile, South Bay right of passage from Two Harbors on Catalina Island to the Manhattan Beach pier.

Sousa initially recorded “Present State of Mind” with his band as a full bore rock song, Collins recalled. Then in 2020, he re-recorded the song as an acoustic solo, after being diagnosed with the melanoma that took his life in May.

Collins said he was humbled by the way Sousa lived out his terminal years. 

“I never saw him angry, or afraid, or resentful. Judgment left his life. A friend described that time as Kevin’s ‘greatest hits years.’”

After getting sober in 2011 while tending bar, Sousa followed Collins in becoming a psychotherapist.

Among the “best friends” who recalled Sousa helping them to get sober was his youngest brother Peter.

“One day in the car I said to him, ‘You got the hair, you got the charisma. You’re a therapist, and a musician. Do women ever hit on you?”

“He’d been married 15 years. He said, ‘I don’t need anyone to tell me I’m the man. I know I’m the man.’”

“He taught me, we are enough.”

Sousa’s other brother Michael promised to carry on Kevin’s legacy, which he described as “Live in the now, and don’t take any shit.”

Charlie Cerussi  introduced himself as Sousa’s oldest “best friend.” They met at 18, at Villanova University. Cerussi was a bartender in the club where Sousa’s band, Rugby Road, was the house band. The band reunited to attend the paddleout.

“Kevin was a rock star then. But he approached everyone with kindness, even before he learned the tools of a psychotherapist. I can’t visualize Kevin without a smile on his face,” Cerussi said.

Following the “best friends” remembrances on the beach where Sousa learned to paddle and surf,  hundreds of “best friends,” many requiring the assistance of county lifeguards, paddled out to the end of the pier and joined hands in a circle.

The Baywatch Redondo water hose sprayed a sparkling silver arch over the paddlers as Patti Feller Sousa returned her husband to the ocean, and then waved a wand of purple smoke, like the one her husband had recently taken to waving during the close of his concerts. ER



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