AN ORPHAN, A BARBER, AN AMERICAN, AN ANTREPRENEUR
GEORGE S A BA'S L I F E L E F T AN I M P R I N T ON H I S DAUGHTER S H E L LY.
What we learn
BY TERI R. WILLIAMS
PHOTOS BY DAPHNE
“As a child, we would kneel by my bed every night, and my
father would pray with me. A lot of times that would be
the mother. But for me, it was my father. Every night, he
prayed the same prayer. ‘Thank you, God, for this warm,
clean bed. Thank you for this food that we have to eat.
Thank you for this house….’”
George Saba’s prayer was not spoken in mindless repetition or out of
religious obligation. He felt no compulsion to appease a religious system
that had excommunicated him because of an earlier divorce. With those
simple heartfelt words, Shelly Smith learned so much about her father.
As she grew older, she discovered more about her father’s past and the
incredible story of his coming to America. And the more she learned, the
more she understood why his sense of gratitude never waned.
George Saba was born on Dec. 6, 1889, in Barty, Syria, a small village
in the Lebanon district. “Hence, his considering himself from Syria
but Lebanese by ethnicity,” said Shelly Smith.
“The genetic heritage of Syrians aligns with the Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi
people. The genetic heritage of Lebanese aligns with Greek Italian. And
sure enough, when I had my DNA done, I am mostly Greek Italian, which
confirmed my father's contention that he was Lebanese, not Syrian.”
When George's father died, his mother had little chance of survival
without a husband. The man she remarried agreed to take in her daughters
since girls could not receive an inheritance. But five-year-old George and
two-year-old Simon were turned out because they would be competition for
the man's own son’s inheritance.
The boys were taken in by an orphanage run by a Greek Orthodox
monastery. When George turned seventeen, he and his brother left the
112 TOOMBS COUNTY MAGAZINE