LIVONIA — Veteran Arab American activist Jalil Gerges Saad, known in the Arab American community in the Detroit region as George Saad, passed away last Monday. He was 85. A funeral will be held for his comfort in St. Mary’s Church in Livonia on Friday, before his burial services in the city on Saturday, May 6.
Saad is considered one of the first Arab American pioneers in the Detroit region, where he contributed to the establishment of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn in 1971. He continued his engagement and work with community, social, civil rights and cultural organizations to preserve the rights of immigrants from the Arab world; and to enhance their economic situation and protect and promote their cultural identity.
And in light of his strong relations with the Arab American communities in the city of Dearborn, his family, who hails from the Koura district in northern Lebanon, received warm condolences from hundreds of mourners who came to pay respect for Saad at the Bint Jebail Cultural Center in Dearborn on Wednesday. Muslim and Christian religious leaders mourned Saad’s death as well, praising the ties that he established and nurtured among Arab Americans and institutions over the years.
Saad’s son, Jacob Saad, indicated that accepting condolences in the city of Dearborn was the normal thing because of his father’s widespread friendship among the Lebanese Muslim community, which has “all the love, appreciation and respect for him.
“Hundreds have come to offer their condolences on the death of my father and their condolences filled our hearts, and we appreciate their kindness on this sad day.
“We couldn’t but hold a viewing for my late father in Dearborn and accept condolences from those who held the strongest and longest relationship with him,” he added. “My father never knew the meaning of sectarianism and never differentiated between Muslims and Christians. My father always considered himself a part of the Dearborn community and everyone loved and appreciated him, and this is what we felt through the sincere condolences on the day of mourning.”
Jacob Saad indicated that his family will hold a second funeral ceremony at St. Mary’s Church in Livonia, on Friday, May 5, between 5 and 8 p.m.
The Arab American Civil Rights League (ACRL) mourned Saad, whom the civil rights organization had honored with the “Struggle for Justice” award at its 11th annual gala, on February 9.
The ACRL released a statement praising Saad’s legacy, stating that “Saad was a true pioneer and a passionate defender of humanity, and his tireless efforts and permanent dedication will be greatly missed in our society” and stressing that his contributions and achievements over the past decades are the most prominent evidence of his “vision, leadership and firm commitment to making the world a better place.”
The statement added that Saad was not only a visionary leader, but he was a kind and merciful person who left an indelible mark on the lives of so many people.
“In this time of mourning, let us remember and honor Mr. Saad and the profound impact he made on our society… We are eternally grateful. His contributions, and his memory will continue to inspire us in our continued work.”
Saad immigrated from Lebanon to Mississippi in 1962 before moving to Michigan to settle in the Detroit area in 1963. He worked in the field of civil engineering and established and managed a number of private businesses such as stores and gas stations.
Saad leaves behind his wife, Margaret, five children and 12 grandchildren.