From Carol Farid Bitar Ofeish,
Falls Church, VA 22042,
Immigrants recall homeland in old
Syria at Arnold fete.
By Charles Shearer,
Monday, August 22,
I am sending you this
picture and the article that appeared in the New Kensington Daily
Dispatch on August 22, 1977. In the picture from left to right they are
James Kanaan age 87, Sarah Naamy 86, Tillie Kanaan 85, and Charles
Joseph (my husband's grandfather) age 88. Tillie Kanaan was husband of
Gaseebee Bahsa and she is Gary Pallone's grandmother. I assume that
James Kanaan was her husband, although I don't remember him. Sarah Naamy
was a cousin on my mother's side. The article is about a testimonial
dinner in their honor that was sponsored by the Bazbina Society.
Carol Bitar Ofeish.
Immigrants recall homeland in old Syria at Arnold fete.
By Charles Shearer
Monday, August 22,
Discussing Old Country
– First generation immigrants from Bazbina, Lebanon, formerly Syria,
talk about their homeland at a dinner in their honor Sunday in Arnold.
There were 22 honored. The four in this photo are james Kannan, 87;
Sarah Naamy, 86; Tillie Kanaan, 85 and Charles Joseph, 88.
“It is an honor just
to be here in America. I wouldn’t mind dying for this country,” said
Naman E. Nassar, 1221 Oakridge St., Pittsburgh.
He and 21 other
immigrants from Bazbina-Akkar, Lebanon, formerly Syria, have similar
They were honored last
night at a testimonial dinner sponsored by Bazbina Society in
Westmoreland Phoenician Club, Dr. Thomas Boulevard, Arnold, PA. The
honorees average 81 years of age.
“Many of these people
just seemed to settle between Second and Fourth Avenue and Ninth and
Twelvth streets in New Kensington, “ said Henry J. Bitar, 266 White Oak
Drive, New Kensington.
“They came over here
with little or no money, they came here to work,” said Dr. Nicholas
Bitar, Pittsburgh. “They started working in this country as peddlers,
grocers and mill workers,” he said. “Now their descendents are lawyers,
doctors and hold important positions in the community,” he said.
include New Kensington – Arnold School Board President, Dr. Henry J.
Bitar and Daniel Joseph, New Kensington police chief.
For many, getting away
from Bazbina was almost a matter of life and death.
“We had to get away
from the Turks, who occupied and ran the country at that time,” said
Charles Joseph, 1317 Woodmont Ave., New Kensington.
“We all left because
my mother didn’t want my brother to be drafted and join the Turkish army
and fight for a lost cause. Many from the village were drafted and never
returned,” said Louis Mitchel, 213 Arnold Manor. “So, when he came of
age, my mother took all of us and moved to America.”
“My brother had a big
business in Pittsburgh, so I came over to visit and stayed to get
married,” said Sara Namey, 1501 Victoria Ave., Arnold. “Bazbina is a
nice place and we lived a good life there.”
“I had a brother and
sister here,” said Namy Ward, 1036 Seventh St., New Kensington, “and I
was told things were real good here.” She came to visit and decided to
stay. “I went back to visit in Bazbina four years ago and I enjoyed my
stay. I am happy both there and here in the U.S.” Ward said.
“Thank God I am here,”
said Asana Thomas, 528 Leechburgh Road, Lower Burrell. “I came to this
country when I was 11 years old and raised five children here. I like
Some of the immigrants
did not have an easy time at first.
“For a while I didn’t
think this country was any better then the one we left,” said Louis
“Things were very
rough at first. “I worked 26 years in Union Spring and Manufacturing as
a torch operator, when the wages were low and there was no union. Things
got much better and the area has been good to us,” he said.
Charles Joseph worked
in the U.S. Steel Corp. mill in Monessen for 50 years between 1908 and
Bazbina Society was
founded to help the immigrants.
organization now helps people coming from Bazbina and other immigrants
to this country. It also offers grants to descendants of Bazbina
immigrants who have graduated from high school and plan to continue at