This article is about a woman and her brother who are buried at Mountain View Cemetery. Her name was Azizeh Ayoube and she was born in Beirut, Syria (now Lebanon) on Nov. 19, 1894. When she was but 8 years old, her mother died in childbirth and little Azizeh was left to help her father keep house and take care of three younger brothers. Her father had built a home on the mountainside of Ain Sindyani, just above El Chouer, and not far from the beautiful city of Beirut.

She remembered the lovely blue Mediterranean Sea, the cedars of Lebanon, and the olives and grapes that everyone grew even from their rooftops. Surrounded by Turkey, Jordan and Israel, her land was always referred to as the “Bible Land.”

They were a happy family, until their mother died. It was sad but they managed until their father married a woman who did not treat them well after she had children of her own. Azizeh’s maternal grandmother told her she should go to America, where the “streets were paved with gold.” At the time it sounded like a great idea to the little girl who was 10. Her cousin and his wife in their early 20s were going to America and she could go with them. As they boarded the boat, she suddenly realized she was leaving her family and country for a different world, where they spoke a different language, and had different customs. It was too late to change her mind.

After a very long boat journey, feeling seasick and homesick all the way, they finally arrived in the new land. She never wanted to see a boat or water again, but they got on another smaller boat (the “Boston boat”) headed  for Camden, Maine. Her cousin was moving on to Belfast where his mother, Mary Christmas, had moved  from Camden. After they arrived they called a relative in Eastport who had promised to bring up Azizeh. She now decided she was going back to “the old country.” Her Aunt Mary said, “Don’t worry you shall live with me.” But within two years her aunt had died. So at 12 years of age, and speaking no English, Azizeh was on her own and went to work in Brewster’s Shirt Factory. She boarded with the Alexanders who were a wonderful family in Camden, and they became her family.

Her new “sisters” told her how lucky she was to be working and they had to go to school. She would smile and say yes. She really would have loved to go to school, but she had to support herself.

She learned English every day, both at work and at home. She saved what money she could and sent it to her brother Salim to come over here to live. He came as far as Boston with an uncle, Massoud Barrakat, who then pinned a note on him and put him on the Boston boat for Camden. One day the boss came in and said, “Lizzie, a present is waiting for you outside, who just got off the Boston boat.” What a joyful reunion that was.

Salim did errands for the same shirt factory and they purchased a home. Frank Alexander had built it for his family, but now he had four daughters, a wife, Sadie, and his aging father who were living with him. They moved to a larger home and Azizeh and Salim bought the smaller place for $500, paying what they could and when they could.

Salim heard there was a store on Elm Street. Two men had rented a pool parlor and a candy and ice cream store. The selectmen had revoked their license for not complying with regulations, so Salim knew he could run a store. He told his sister he would run a first class place and add a shoe shine parlor. She was hesitant, but he was determined. On May 5, 1916, he had it open for business. The rent was cheap because he would do work on the building, and with his people personality, his Elm Street Fruit Store was profitable in a short time.

He became popular in the business community and joined the Masons. It was but a year or so later that he told his sister she was going to have a store also and stop working in the shirt factory. He had found a building on the corner of Mechanic and Washington Street and they worked in their spare time to fix it up for another store like Salim’s.

One night she saw Salim outside helping a man she thought was sick. He said, “No, the poor guy is drunk, so we will let him stay in the store tonight and talk to him in the morning.” In the morning they went down and he had sobered up.

“Sorry I caused you kids trouble, but I will be on my way,” the man said.

Way to where? He had no place to go, so they told him he could live in the back of the store, if he would stay sober. He hadn’t had an offer like that in a long time, so it was a deal and he helped them.

For weeks they painted the store, refinished the floors, set up counters and stocked the store. They were to open in the morning, but went back to the store that night because they had forgotten something. There was their new friend holding two young fellows by their collars. The front window had been broken and graffiti had been written on the building. The fellows disliked foreigners. They could hear their friend yelling at them. “These young people arrived in this country with no family nor money and worked themselves to exhaustion to have a nice store. You no-good-kids waste your time breaking windows and marking up places!”

“Sammy, what do you want me to do with them?” he asked.

Sammy replied, ”Nothing, nothing, perhaps they have learned their lesson.”

Start over again they did and one week later the Knox Fruit Store opened for business. Salim, 21, and Azizeh, 23, owned their own home and two stores. Finally, 13 years later, Azizeh understood what Grandma Ketbi meant when she said, “The streets in America are paved with gold.”

Their American  names were now Elizabeth and Sammy and they were enjoying life and had many friends. But soon America became involved in World War I and Sammy broke the news to his sister that he had enlisted to fight for his country. So he sold his Elm Street Fruit Store to Tony Arico and worked with his sister and waited for orders to leave.

About that time the influenza epidemic struck Camden as well as everywhere else.  Young people were dying and the Congregational Parish House was set up as a hospital as Camden had none. Working with the public, both Sammy and Elizabeth got the dreaded flu.

On Oct. 25, 1918, the day Sammy was to leave for the military, he died at 22 years of age. Elizabeth recovered from the flu, but never recovered from losing her brother. She went back to her store to earn a living. Ironically my Lebanese cousin’s son, who was named for our Uncle Salim, died in Beirut last month at age 22 of the H1N1 flu.

Elizabeth (Azizeh) married Milton Dyer and they had three children. She died of lung cancer in 1958 and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery with Sammy. There I will be also with my mother, Elizabeth Dyer, and my uncle, Salim Ayoube.

The next article will be about a well-known Camden businessman who was a friend of my Uncle Salim many years ago.