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, 1984
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 feelings.
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.
Direct descendents 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 America.
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 Mitchell.
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 1958.
Bazbina Society was founded to help the immigrants.
The 80-member 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 college.