Son of Albanian Tradition
Simon Dedvukaj, his seven brothers and sisters agree, was the good son. When his siblings had questions about Albanian history, he was the encyclopedia they turned to. As a 13-year-old he sat for hours with his grandfather learning about all things Albanian, while his brothers played pool downstairs. Although he was born and raised in New York, he remained close to Albania and its traditions.
"He was Old World in many ways," said his brother-in-law, Joey Vukaj. "Take the way he honored guests. If a visitor was at Simon's house, even for six hours, Simon would stand the whole time."
"But," Mr. Vukaj continued, "he was New World in the way he honored children." Mr. Dedvukaj, 26, who supervised maintenance workers at the World Trade Center, skimped on himself to take his nieces and nephews to McDonald's and to buy them lavish Christmas presents.
"He dressed very mediocre so he could spend his money on other people," Mr. Vukaj said. "He'd spend just $30 on sneakers for himself and then he'd spend $200 on sneakers for his nieces and nephews."
Two years ago, Mr. Vukaj and his wife, Donna, Mr. Dedvukaj's oldest sister, went to a cousin's wedding in Albania. "There was this gorgeous girl there," Mr. Vukaj said. "When we went home we told Simon, `We met the girl for you.'" Mr. Dedvukaj soon went to Albania to meet her, and it was love at first sight. And soon his wife-to-be, Elizabeth, moved to the United States. They would have celebrated their first anniversary this past October.
"She was brought to a new world," said Nik Dedvukaj, Simon's brother. "And then she was hit by something like this. It's crazy."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 6, 2001.