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David Assaf Jr.

At 8:03 pm Wednesday December 26, 2012, the Patriarch of the Assaf clan in south Louisiana was finally reunited with the love of his life, our Mother - Edith Lorraine McElroy Assaf. Born in Tela, Honduras, the fourth of seven children from David Moises Assaf and Victoria Mahchi of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, respectively, our beloved Father contracted polio at 18 months of age. This disease rendered his right leg to a feeble and useless existence. Not until age 12, when he came to New Orleans at the invitation of a medical missionary to seek medical care from Touro Infirmary (as it was called) for his malady and surgical remedy, did his life's path become more clearly defined. Following the "revolutionary procedure" in which Doctor's fused the bones in his knee and ankle, and with the aid of a shoe built with an 8" lift, our Father, for the first time in his life was finally able to put weight on the leg and hence learn to walk with or without the aid of crutches. He never considered himself handicapped. Upon release from the hospital, young David, age 12, his parents far away in Honduras, not speaking a word of English, was sent to recuperate at the home of a cousin on Canal Street who happened to live next door to a beautiful young Irish girl by the name of Edith Lorraine McElroy - our Mother. From there a love affair to last almost 70 years began. Young David remained in the United States and was sent as a foreign boarding student to St. Stanislaus School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It was in this setting that for the next six formative years of his life did the magnitude of this frail, diminutive man, blossom into the Father, The Patriarch, indeed the Giant among men wherever he went and with whomever he associated. He entered a disciplined, challenging, foreign world at St. Stanislaus where the Brothers of The Sacred Heart, in an effort to teach him English, penalized him for speaking Spanish. They took away his crutches and forced him to learn to walk without them. He was tasked to swim in the Bay to strengthen his frail frame. They instilled a devotion to Jesus Christ and his Catholic faith which guided him throughout his life. In the six years he spent at St. Stanislaus, young David, Jr (he gave himself the moniker of Jr later in life to prevent his father from opening his mail), not only mastered the English and French languages, his academic prowess was such that he became editor of the school newspaper "The Rockashaw." He skipped a grade and graduated Valedictorian of the class of 1940 where his academic record remains among the highest in school history. He is a member of the school's Hall of Fame. To earn spending money he eventually became a "Gulf Coast Sports" reporter and sent articles to the Times Picayune and States Item in New Orleans. His family in Honduras could not afford to bring him home during the summers so he remained on campus. His "parents" were the Brothers of St. Stanislaus and of course by long distance he courted his sweetheart Edith in New Orleans with whom he corresponded it seems, on a daily basis. Unbeknownst to us, our Mother saved every letter she received from those difficult pre-war days. After graduation, our Father, wanting to go to College was instead called home to help with the family and worked for United Fruit Company shipping bananas and other produce back to New Orleans. He tried to enlist in the armed forces to serve his adopted country. Of course having polio declared him ineligible but he argued he could still type! They said no. It was their loss. In January 1942 from Honduras, he sent for his sweetheart and her Mother (Edna) whereupon they were married February 21 in a Spanish ceremony. Our sister Ednamary was born later that year in December. In late October 1943, Dad sent Mom and our sister back home to New Orleans on the fastest ship owned by United Fruit Company, all the while dodging Nazi submarines in the Gulf of Mexico. On February 10, 1944, Daddy, who by then was "head of household" and with his Mother and four siblings in tow embarked upon a 2 week odyssey by pleasure boat, train and what have you, to begin a new life in New Orleans. Daddy continued to work for United Fruit Company where he learned the export and freight forwarding business. David III was born in April 1945 and Dennis George in 1951. He bought his first home - a cottage on a dirt road called Milne Street (later Boulevard after they paved it and formed a "neutral ground"). Ever the leader and self made man, Daddy took the next step and eventually formed hisown business and "Assaf & Company Exporters" was born in 1955. Daddy was a prosperous businessman who knew the value of family and never brought work home (unlike his sons). In 1970, wanting a better home for his family but not wanting to leave his beloved Lakeview community, bought property a half mile away and built his dream home for his sweetheart. The new home, christened "El Escorial" (for the Spanish Castle in Mom's favorite Opera Don Carlo by Giuseppe Verdi), unlike the cottage on Milne Blvd would be made of brick. When the contractor delivered the bricks to the construction site, Daddy, noticing something amiss, stopped the driver from unloading and quizzed him as to their origin. He learned that Hurricane Camille of 1969 had heavily damaged the buildings of St. Stanislaus and that these were the very same bricks! Needless to say he directed the driver to finish unloading. Imagine the joy of building his new home with these same bricks and the memories from his childhood! Moving out of his church parish, he applied for permission to remain part of St. Dominic Parish whereupon he could remain active and eventually serve as President of the Holy Name Society. David Assaf, Jr was more than an astute businessman, more than a devout Catholic, devoted husband and doting father. He was a leader, a man of great principle. a poet, a singer, a romantic, an historian, a collector of all things beautiful and interesting. He was an adventurer who took us on long trips as kids and showed us the magnificence of our great country of which he was so proud to be a naturalized citizen. He saved our lives literally in the mountains of California when our brakes failed and our loaded 1960 Mercury Station Wagon almost careened off the road near a cliff. He was a smoker since age 12 (or younger) of unfiltered Lucky Strikes and who, after almost 40 years of addiction to nicotine and at the behest of our Mother one day quit "cold turkey". Such was the man of great love, conviction, self-control and discipline. We are so grateful to God for giving us such loving and devoted parents. After Katrina, as we cleaned out the beautiful but destroyed home he built with his school's bricks, we found the letters they wrote to each other while they courted. They are a testament to love and devotion. Daddy could not read them for his macular degeneration had left him virtually blind these last seven years or so. Our beautiful Father and hero, David Assaf, Jr is now once again with his sweetheart. In these terribly sad moments, we rejoice in knowing that our Mother's ten year wait for the love of her life is over. Our beautiful Daddy, polio and all is dancing in Heaven with Mom and Jesus. We love you Daddy. Kiss and hug Momma for us and one day we will all be together again. Sadly missed by the three children Ednamary (Guy), David III (Paula), Dennis George (Nancy), nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Visitation will be at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East, 11000 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge on Saturday, December 29, 2012 from 10 am until 11:40 am. Mass of Christian Burial at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 11441 Goodwood Blvd, Baton Rouge at noon Saturday celebrated by the Rev. Tom Duhe. Entombment will be at 3 pm, Saturday, at Lake Lawn Park Cemetery Mausoleum in New Orleans. Donations are encouraged to the New Orleans Children's Hospital. Visit the online guest book at www.rabenhorst.com.

Published in TheAdvocate.com from Dec. 27 to Dec. 29, 2012
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