The following is an email from a friend I would like to share:
Would reading the summation of a man's life constitute adherence to the
oft-repeated admonition of your learned (and apparently devoted, if only for the
sake of argument) correspondent -- to "read history"? If so, there may be a
lesson in this obituary from the Houston Chronicle. In a few short lines don't we find a greater force
to advance Hellenism than all the jingoists, chauvinists and xenophobes in
Athens? A generous New York cobbler and a quintessentially American orphan seem
to have done more for your homeland than all the angry words penned by those who
would preserve your culture by exclusion.
Stavros, I have always known you to be a great American. Although surely not in a position to render expert testimony on the subject, I would number you and Tommy Demopoulos (the cobbler) -- and even our recently departed Houstonian, Sayed Jamel Houssein (the former orphan), among the world's Great Greeks.
Your critics may be right and your views and the teachings of Our Savior may be all wet. There may indeed be some who would light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket. If these souls are warmed by the concentration of such light, then more power to them; but wouldn't it get a little stuffy under there?
From the Houston Chronicle
Houssein, poet, retired businessman
By ANNE MARIE KILDAY
Sayed Jamel Houssein, a retired Houston real estate and construction company executive with strong ties to Afghanistan, died a week ago today after a short illness. He was 75.
Houssein will be buried Friday at a family cemetery in Alabama. A funeral service was held Tuesday at Compean Funeral home.
Houssein was a poet and humanitarian who served as the "ambassador" to the United Nations from the Afghanistan government-in-exile during that country's war and occupation by Russia in the 1980s.
Houssein was a 2003 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his contributions toward preserving both Greek and Afghan culture.
Houssein's father was an immigrant from Afghanistan who served in the U.S. military, and his mother's family was among the Daughters of the American Revolution. When his mother died during World War II, Houssein's father split up his four children into different orphanages in the Washington, D.C., area.
Houssein ran away from the orphanage and, in his early teens, went to New York City, said his friend, Gus Hazifotis. In New York, Houssein was befriended by a Greek cobbler, named Tommy Demopoulos, who gave Houssein $1 to buy a sandwich when the hungry teen sought work in his store. "When Houssein came back into his shop to give him back the change, Tommy had already set him up with a job. He told him to 'keep the change' and go on downtown to start a job, which was collecting on insurance policies. At that time, people would pay about 25 cents a week for insurance," he said. Because of that experience, "Greeks became his adoptive family and he cherished them until his death," said Hazifotis. Houssein became a lifelong member of the American Hellenic Progressive Association (AHEPA). He served on the Greek-American organization's national board of governors and as president of the Houston chapter.
Because of his father's Afghan heritage, Houssein maintained a keen interest in
After studying with a New York lawyer, Houssein established the Shah Oil Exploration Co., which not only drilled for oil but also invested in several coal and gold mines. Houssein sold the company to a Danish group in 1983.
Shortly after that, Houssein published his first compilation of poetry, which was titled Smoked Pearls, or a Dish of Oysters for an Untidy Mind. Four of his 10 volumes of poetry are still in print.
In the 1980s, Houssein organized and served as president of the Afghan Foundation. Because he had accumulated wealth, Hazifotis said Houssein "funded part of the war against the Russians, in fact he bought boots for an entire battalion in Afghanistan."
Houssein also was involved in persuading the Soviets to release 79 Jews being held in Afghanistan to be allowed to leave the country; and assisted in the release of 13,500 political prisoners being held in Afghanistan.
Houssein is survived by his wife, Anne; his daughter, Jamile Yasmin Alexander, a doctor; and his son, Zacharias Houssein, who recently passed the Texas State Bar exam.
From the Houston Chronicle