The Mayor of Qaraoun

Yehia Shousher wanted to be the mayor of Qaraoun.

In 1949 he immigrated from the village in the south of Lebanon to Canada with his mother and two brothers. Four years later, in 1953, he made the move to Toledo.

When Mr. Shousher, 85, first left Lebanon, he was intent on returning to his boyhood home in Qaraoun. He told his mother that he would join the family in their move, but that he would give himself 10 years to make $10,000, and then he would move back to Lebanon so he could marry and become the mayor of his village.

Sixty-five years later, he’s still in Toledo.

“I made the $10,000, and I made much more than that,” he said. “And then, I spent it. And you raise six kids, and then you get established with the community, and you enjoy life. And your family grows, and you just get to know everybody in here and get established. And you’re not going to find a better place than Toledo, Ohio.”

Though Mr. Shousher’s dreams of being mayor of Qaraoun were never realized, the former vending company owner carved out a place for himself as a leader in the Arab and Muslim communities in Toledo.

He helped found the United Muslims Association of Toledo, the Islamic Food Bank of Toledo, and the multi-faith Habitat for Humanity. But chief among his accomplishments is helping establish Toledo’s first Islamic Center, on East Bancroft Street in North Toledo in 1954. In the early 1980s, the founding community moved to a new location in Perrysburg Township, but the building remains a mosque.

In 2009, he was presented with a Glass Key from the City of Toledo, for his service to the community. The award, from former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, recognized those individuals who “truly demonstrate a lifelong commitment to Toledo and northwest Ohio.”

Video by Hasan Dudar and Katie Rausch.