Funeral held for storeowner killed in shooting

October 22, 2010 2:32:33 PM PDT
Hundreds gather in Cicero Friday to celebrate the life of beloved small business owner Bassam Naoum.Naoum, 59, was shot and killed last weekend in his corner store. A funeral was held for Naoum Friday.

Naoum, who came to America from Jordan as a teenager, was known for helping his customers.

He also wanted success for the people of Cabrini Green, the notorious public housing project that has pretty much been dismantled over the last decade. It still has residents, and in a testament to the power of friendship, they outnumbered family at Naoum's funeral.

Over 200 mourners gathered in grief at St. George Antiochian Church.

When Robert Winston had heart troubles, Naoum gave him money and hope.

"We lost a prince - or I could say, a king," said Robert Winston. "A king - what he do is serve his people, and he feed 'em, and he did that to the fullest, and basically everybody [knew] that."

Many stories of generosity punctuated the service. His daughter, Noelle Naoum, said the outpouring of love has helped ease the pain of Naoum's violent and unsolved death.

"I remember him as like everyone said, generous, but the funniest person that I knew, really, the funniest, the life of the party, everyday was something new with him and that's how I remember him," said Noelle Naoum.

"The key was coming in and with money or without money and when they leave with money he would call back with money and give them candy and stuff because they didn't have money," said former customer Antoinette Rhodes.

"I think this is how I see him. If the people who killed him can only know him," said relative Samir Naoum.

"Financially helped, food-wise, I couldn't afford food. If I asked Ollie, he would give it to me," said customer Ieshah Brown.

"We all love him. We all are going to miss him, and we're just really sad about what happened to him," said customer Natalia Blackmon. His reputation for being a pillar of stability in the urban chaos that was Cabrini Green made Union Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Marvin Alexander marvel. The pastor worked with Naoum on both big and small projects, including feeding 700 of the poor and dispossessed at Thanksgiving. Alexander said the Jordanian might have been inspired by attending a black college in Alabama 40 years ago.

"He had a feel for the plight of what black people had gone through and everything, and he just felt like being in the community," said Alexander. "He didn't want to just be a business owner, he wanted to help."

"He came here by himself as an immigrant when he was 19 and he understands the need of feeling a community, feeling a family when you don't have any," said Noelle Naoum.

Naoum's daughter said she, like many mourners at the funeral, wanted to focus on Naoum's life, not his death.

"We don't want to focus on the last week. We want to focus on the last 59 years of his life and everything he has given to us," said daughter Noelle Naoum. "It's tough for us inside, but the people showing their love is helping us through this."

Naoum had vowed to stay until Cabrini Green was no more. For a neighborhood quickly gentrifying, that end has gotten a lot closer, especially now that a part of its spiritual center is gone.

"He had a beautiful smile, a beautiful personality and a soulful heart, and it is going to be a big loss to Cabrini," said Winston.

There have been no arrests in Naoum's murder, and there is a $1,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.

"We want to reach closure. The family and the friends want to reach closure. The only way we can accomplish that somehow is to find the perpetrator," said Gazi Mashal, lifelong friend.

Naoum was shot and killed last weekend inside his convenience store on North Orleans and West Oak. Police say they do not believe robbery was a motive because Naoum was still wearing his expensive watch, money was still in the cash register and nothing appeared to be stolen from the store.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like donations to be made to the Union Missionary Baptist Church for their Thanksgiving dinner.


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