Sunday 4 September 2005

Let me tell you about my aunty Susanne from the Argentine. When Dad and his sister left Lebanon as teenagers, they were on their way to South America. They were the only children in their family- - unusual for a Lebanese family back then. ( His stepbrother, John Peters the 1st, was your grandmother, Smurrid's father. He was a great person who my father always remembered with love and gratitude. He took dad under his wing when he first arrived in New Zealand in 1911. Dad's mother was married twice, first to a Peters, then to a Fakir il Urrib). Anyway, when Dad got to Port Said he decided to carry on to New Zealand with Maroun Reid and Milhem Michael. Auntie Susanne continued on to the Argentine. Sadly, they never met again. We did keep in touch over the years and over the miles but eventually lost contact. When my Dad passes away in 1963 I wrote to the last known address of Aunty Susanne and received photographs and a letter in Spanish. I managed to get it translated and discovered that Aunty Susanne had died many years before my father. She had married a Lebanese man whose surname was Jaja. I heard nothing from her children for the next forty years. Fast forward to 2003. I was in Canberra and made an appointment at the Argentinean Embassy to enquire about my lost cousins. I was assisted by the secretary, a blue eyed blonde young woman in a gabardine business suit - not at all what I was expecting. She gave me all the information I needed, right down to the phone numbers. I rang the numbers when I got back to New Zealand but to no avail. Maybe one of my nephews will try again in the future.

Raymond Ferris was my closest childhood friend. The Ferris family were very progressive in many ways. They were the first Lebanese family in Dunedin to have a telephone. Raymond’s sister, Madeline, had a lady’s dress shop in Lower Stuart Street called ‘Robertas’. She was the first Lebanese girl to drive a car – a big Chrysler in which she chauffeured Raymond and me to St Joseph’s School. We felt like kings. Later on, when Raymond left the priesthood it was with great sorrow but his position had become untenable. He had given thirty-two years of service to the Catholic Church.
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