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109 Year-Old Arab American Lives On

posted on: Oct 14, 2009

BY: Ameera David/Contributing Writer

She enjoys apple picking at the local farm, taking trips to the ocean for her favorite lobster, and chatting with loved ones about history, politics, and sports. If you ask her how she does it, she’ll reply “I just keep moving”.

At 109 years-old, Rose Haddad is living the dream of many—that of a fulfilling and prolonged existence. Remarkably so, she has thus far seen the growth of 21 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grand children. And while it’s not officially verified, Rose is thought to be the oldest living Arab American.

Born Ramza (Rose) Homsy on April 15, 1900 in Damascus, Syria, she and her family later immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a more prosperous economy. First settling in Ellis Island by boat, the family soon moved to a suburb of Boston, where they became members of St. John of Damascus Antiochian Orthodox Church.

After her husband, John Haddad, passed away in 1960, Rose took it upon herself to become self sufficient. At the age of 65, she acquired a driver’s license and went on to work for many years at a local hospital. Despite increasing age, she continued driving her own car until the age of 96.

Throughout her life, she has been privileged to see much of the U.S. and Europe, and has twice traveled back to her homeland Syria; however, there is no place she would rather be than in her home city, spending quality time with her children and grandchildren.

Although Rose is certainly seasoned in age, her grandchildren say their “Taita” (grandma) has remained forever young in spirit. Granddaughter Rose-Marie Stamboulides recalls how much fun she had living with her grandmother upon first moving to the Boston area.

“I remember my girlfriends would come over before leaving to go out for the evening, and they never wanted to leave because they enjoyed her company so much. In fact, one time, they asked me if we could take her out with us. So, we did! We went to a “hafla” (party) at a local church and danced the night away,” says Stamboulides.

But what truly keeps her going? Grandson Richard Nawfel believes it’s her sense of humor and will to laugh. He says “Even though she just began using the assistance of a walker, I always hear her say ‘I hope to get rid of this thing someday!’”

In addition to laughter, Stamboulides believes it’s her grandmother’s desire to remain relevant. “Her attitude towards life is very current and realistic. She can carry on a conversation about current events, and she even went to the polls to vote in the 2008 Presidential election.”

Perhaps it’s also her strong belief in life truisms such as “patience is a virtue” and “never worry about the little things” that have kept her going. While we may never be able to acknowledge one factor as the secret to a long life, we do know that Rose’s determination to laugh and love is an example to live by.