Prominent Wichita Falls, Tex. dentist Dr. Kenneth Aboussie recounted his family's dramatic history and immigration to this north Texas city of 105,000 today, Wednesday, Sept. 11 before a fascinated group at the University Kiwanis Club.
"Richie Saied, my brother Joey Aboussie and I stood on the same piece of ground near Lone Wolf, Oklahoma recently that our ancestors traveled over coming to this part of the country years ago. It was a dramatic moment for all three of us because when our ancestors walked over it they dreamed of the opportunity this land presented all those years ago," Dr. Aboussie said to a crowd riveted by his interesting stories.
Aboussie, who was a star player for the Wichita Falls High School Coyote football team that won the state championship and later was a University of Oklahoma running back, who played for Bud Wilkinson , recounted how his ancestors grew up in the northern part of Lebanon. He told how the Turkish tax collectors of the Ottoman Empire took advantage of his ancestors in those grim days before World War I brought an end to that oppressive regime.
He told how one of his ancestors killed a tax collector who was particularly oppressive, stole a horse and rode south to safety near a small village in Lebanon. It at one time was a part of Syria which has dominated the world news in recent days.
"In the days of the Ottoman Empire, there was no Syria and no Lebanon. The British and the French divided that part of the world up into countries after the Turks chose the wrong side in World War I," the well-read Aboussie said.
"Lebanon is the only Christian country in the Middle East. It's in the Constitution that the president has to be a Christian and the vice-president a Muslim," the former running back for the Coyotes said.
"Most of the Lebanese Christians were Catholics, Orthodox or Presbyterians. When my family members came from Lebanon to this part of the country and settled in places like Hollis, Oklahoma and Megargel, Texas they joined Methodist and Baptist churches because those were the churches most often in existence. My family traveled past the Pavilion at Lake Wichita on their way to Megargel and said what a nice place this would be to settle. Some of them did move here to Wichita Falls in the 1930s," he further said.
He mentioned several respected Lebanese families in the Wichita Falls area including the Kadanes, the Kouris, the Cluleys, the Horanys, the Saieds and the Aboussies.
"Of course most of you are familiar with Eddie Kadane and the other Kadanes who were successful in the oil industry around here. Kadane Korner is named after them," he said.
Dr. Aboussie said that although the Kadanes were a great example of Lebanese success in the oil industry, many of the other Lebanese came to this part of the country as merchants and shopkeepers who served people in the petroleum business.
"Of course Jimmy Horany was a fine lawyer and Dr. Melvin Horany an excellent physician," he further said.
He also referred to Sammy and Jimmy Kouri who had the food market which attained legendary status in Wichita Falls over the decades. Phil Kouri was a flamboyant attorney known for driving a yellow Rolls Royce through the streets of the city.
He explained the name Aboussie was originally Abu-asi in Lebanese. His mother, who grew up in Hollis, Oklahoma and attended school with Darrel Royal, is 92 and still works in Dr. Aboussie's dental office "keeping things in order."
While Kenneth, who is known as "Kenny" to friends and family, was part of the WFHS football dynasty that saw the school make it to four consecutive state championship games in the later 1950s and early 60s, his younger brother Joey was part of a state championship team a decade later.
One of the smartest decisions Aboussie made was marrying his wife Donna in 1969 who at the time he met her lived in Oklahoma.
A serious student of history, Aboussie recalled how the brutal Ottoman Empire dominated the Middle East until a British officer, Lawrence of Arabia, helped inspire the Arabs to rebel against their overlords during World War I.
"Until then, there was a big area called Arabia which included nomadic Bedouins with no concept of boundary lines which would later divide the region into countries. The Saudi family was the largest so the biggest country was named Saudi Arabia," the Wichita Falls civic leader said.
"My family descends from Phoenicians and not Arabs, who originally settled in what is now Lebanon centuries ago. My family ancestors all immigrated legally through Ellis Island. There are still suitcases there of people who were either denied entry into this country or were accepted but left their luggage behind."
Aboussie also told the story of a grandmother sold thimbles along the way while the family moved from New York to Illinois to Texas.
Another outstanding Lebanese man Dr. V.C.. Saied has also contributed greatly to this community.
Dr. Aboussie explained that made it all the more special when Dr. Saied's son Richie went with his brother Joey and himself to stand on an oil lease which his family inherited from his wife Donna's family which was on the same ground over which their ancestors traveled all those years ago.
North Texas is a much better place because the Aboussies, the Saieds and other Lebanese ancestors decided to come this way when they left Lebanon.
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