Stories of our People

Tradition and proud people are the foundation of the Lebanese and Syrian community in Cape Breton.  Here we pay tribute to our people who, in various ways, have helped grow the Lebanese and Syrian culture in Cape Breton. We also share stories of Lebanese and Syrian families.

Our goal is to share many stories of Lebanese and Syrian families in Cape Breton. If you would like to submit an obituary or share a story please contact us.

Assad Khalil Libbus (1882-1929)

A.K. Libbus was born in Bethlahia Lebanon in 1882, the son of Khalil and Fattina Libbus. In the late 1800s, approximately 1898, Assad Khalil Libbus arrived in Canada along with his younger brother Abraham (1884-1907). At the time of their arrival in Canada, A.K. Libbus was 16 years old and Abraham was 14. They arrived in Sydney hoping to find employment at the Sydney Steel Works after hearing about the success of the newly formed Dominion Steel Company at this time. Following a number a months in Sydney, Assad Libbus send for the rest of his family including his parents, sister Edna and a number of his cousins.

The Libbus brothers built the Libbus Block and when other family members and relatives arrived in Sydney in the early 1900s they moved into the block. The Libbus Block, located at 260 Townsend Street, was the heart of the Lebanese community in Sydney for approximately 70 years. The Block was a three story wooden structure housing Libbus Brothers (a dry goods business) on the first floor along with a few other small businesses. The Lebanese families resided on the second and third floors. The Libbus Block was a landmark on Townsend Street in Sydney for 70 years from 1900-1970.

Annie (Ferris) Libbus (1886-1962)

Annie Ferris Libbus was born in Lebanon in 1886 and came to Sydney in the early 1900s along with many other Lebanese families. After spending a few years in Sydney she married Assad Khalil Libbus in 1908. They were married in Sacred Heart Church in Sydney. At the time of their marriage, Annie was 22 years olda and Assad was 26 years of age. Assad and Annie were married before the Lebanese Church was established in Sydney. in the 1990s Lena (Libbus) Kunze stated that Annie Ferries never wanted to marry Assad Libbus and that ti was an arrange marriage.  After a few years in Sydney, Annie consented to marry Assad. They went on to produce a family of seven children born between 1911-1929.

The first child born to Annie and Assad Libbus was Alexander George Libbus. Alex was born on October 21, 1911 in Sydney. In 1929, when Alex was 17 years old his father passed away leaving his moth Annie, a young widow, with seven children under the age of 18. With the passing of his father, Alex became the father figure and head of the Libbus family. On September 12, 1934, Alex married his Jenny Libbus the daughter of Joseph and Sara Libbus. They were married in the Lebanese church (St. Patrick’s) by Father Louis Soiab. Alex and Jenny lived in the Libbus Block on Townsend Street in Sydney from 1934-1961 where they raised a family of four children.

After the death of her husband in 1929, Annie Libbus continued to live in the Libbus block until 1962 surround by her family.

Philip Shaheen (1889-1964)

Philip Shaheen arrived in Sydney in 1905 with his brother Joseph and sister Sophie. In September 1921 at the age of 31 he married Laura Kyte who was the daughter of Tom and Kazna (Hashem) Kyte. Laura’s father Tom passed away on April 29, 1921 just four months before her marriage. When Phillip and Laura married in 1921 she was 15 years old and he was 31.

The Lebanese of the Titanic

Amelia (Joseph) Somers (1913 – 2014)

On Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, Amelia ‘Meme’ Somers passed away peacefully at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. A legend is gone!

She was born one hundred and one years ago on July 29, 1913, the daughter of the late Habeeb and Sarah (Libbus) Joseph.
Amelia is survived by her loving sister, Henrettia Sampson and her companion George Curtis, Lower Sackville, N.S. Amelia is also survived by her sister-in-law Mabel Joseph and the Joseph family who all grew up with’Aunt Meme’ in the big house on Townsend Street.

Amelia was predeceased by her husband, Thomas Somers, her brothers, Joseph (Katherine), Abraham (Helen), Samuel (Thelma), David (Dates) Joseph and brother-in-law, Roy Sampson.

Amelia, or ‘Aunt Meme’, as she was affectionately known, will be sadly missed by her many nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews to whom she passed on many wonderful Lebanese traditions. She recently supervised the making of over 4,300 fatiyahs as the Joseph families prepared for Christmas. The tradition of making fatiyahs, leben, kibbie and salebis on Old Christmas Day will live on forever in the lives of her family.

Amelia will be fondly remembered by the many patrons of Kay’s Kozy Korner where she worked for over 25 years. Although small in stature, her presence behind the counter was larger than life.

She was active in many organizations including the St. Joseph’s CWL but it was as a member of the Daughters of Mary, the ladies’ auxiliary of the Lebanese-Syrian Benevolent Society that she made her greatest contribution. Amelia was an active member for over 80 years and helped maintain and support the Lebanese heritage that is such an important part of our community.

She belonged to several bowling leagues. Amelia always enjoyed the friendship and competition of these leagues and made many wonderful friends over the years. Reluctantly she had to hang up her bowling shoes at the age of 96 when the Bowl-Mor Lanes closed. She also excelled at tarabish and enjoyed nothing more than beating one of her nieces or nephews in a game of crib.

Those who knew Amelia best always marvelled at her keen mind and her ability for the quick and accurate recall. Need a phone number, an address or a birthday date, just ask Meme. A beautiful mind!

Amelia had a long and wonderful life, living every day to the fullest. She was born shortly after the Titanic sank before the First World War began and experienced so much during her 101 years.

A devout Christian, Amelia lived a dignified life that reflected her strong religious beliefs. She touched the lives of many and her kind and caring ways will be forever missed.

Jamael and Stella Libbus

Stella (Shaheen) Libbus was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia to parents Philip and Laura Shaheen along with 8 other siblings, Thomas, Isaac, Louis, Mary, Peter, Alice, Martha and Joseph. Her father was one of the first people to come to Sydney from Lebanon due to the war. Philip first travelled Montreal and later came to Sydney where they built their home in Ashby. At age 12 Stella started her first job at Moffats, where she would later meet her husband Jamael Libbus.

Jamael was born to Isaac and Annie Libbus and had 6 other siblings, Alexander, Fanny, Morena, Freda, Francis, and Rose. Jamael was 2 months old when his father Isaac passed away and from then on his mother Annie worked at the first Saloon shop in Sydney and raised her family until her passing in 1962.

Together, Jamael and Stella began building their life residing at the Libbus Block, until moving to their own home on Sheriff Avenue. Jamael worked in the Steel City Tavern and Stella worked at the Smart Shop until their retirement at age 60. They had four boys, Joseph, Ronald, Douglas, and William. Jamael and Stella have been very close and active members of the Cedars Club for over 60 years. Stella often participates in cooking Lebanese food for events at the club and attending mass.

One Comment

  1. David Genter
    Posted March 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Fred Tomie operated the widely known Whitney Pier Athletic Club at 570 Victoria Road. His father came over first in the early 1900’s to work in the steel mill. He was born in Lebanon and was 12 when he came here with his mother when his father had enough to cover their passage. He helped several up and coming bands during his years operating the club including Sam Moon and Matt Minglewood. His story is immortalized in the song “Saturday Night at Fred’s” by John Cambelljohn I believe. Brenda Tomie (daughter), Victor Tomie (son) and George Tomie (brother) may have more detailed information to do a good story for this page.

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