George K. Shalabi

George Kamel Shalabi passed away January 31, 2020 from complications due to congestive heart failure. He was born at home on April 9, 1939 in Haifa, Palestine to Nahala and Kamel Shalabi. He was the oldest of four boys — a position of responsibility, respect and honor in Arab families. This helped form his personality and guided his interactions with people throughout his entire life.

 

In 1948, his family lived as refugees in one room of Carmelite monastery, on Mount Carmel, high above the city of Haifa. He was 9 years old during this period and remembers the time fondly because he didn’t have to go to school. 

 

Much of George’s early education was at a school run by French monks, where all subjects were taught in French. He was fluent in several languages — Arabic, French, English and Hebrew. 

 

Because of his fluent French, after high school, he landed a job working at the French Embassy in Haifa. He worked here for several years before meeting Bill Cabecca — a U.S. Naval attaché who would frequently visit the embassy.

 

George and Bill befriended each other and it gave George the opportunity to practice  his English skills during their visits. 

 

It was at Bill’s insistence that George applied for college scholarships in the United States and he eventually received an offer to attend the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

 

He left Haifa in June of 1962 on a ship with a suitcase of clothes and the equivalent of a couple of hundred dollars in his pocket. 

 

At the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, he began working on his chemistry degree. And at a party in 1964, he met Peggy Goltz, whom he would eventually marry on July 1, 1967.

 

After they graduated, they both found jobs in the Sauk-Prairie, Wisconsin area and moved there to settle and start a family. 

 

George found work at the Badger Army Ammunition plant in 1967 and worked there in various environmental and chemical engineering capacities until he retired in 2000. 

 

With a wide variety of interests and passions, George had a very active retirement. At the age of 65 he took up cycling and completed several long-distance bike tours. He also began to develop his skills as a woodcarver and was fond of carving walking sticks. He was part of an active hiking group and hiked all over Sauk County. He loved drinking tea, reading the newspaper and completing the crossword puzzle each day at his favorite cafe — the Blue Spoon in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. 

 

He was also on the board of the St. Vincent de Paul Sauk Prairie and spent many hours volunteering at the store in Sauk City.  And he was a member of the Sauk Prairie Rotary Club for many years.

 

But his real life’s work was working for peace in the Middle East through his many talks (and Facebook posts) — both formal and informal — that he gave on the subject. While he lived most of his life in the United States, his true identity was that of a proud Palestinian. 

 

For many years, George was on the board of the Pilgrims of Ibillin, the fundraising organization of the Mar Elias School in the Galilee region of Israel. The mission of the school is to create an environment where children of all religions in the area — Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druze — went to school together from a very young age. The idea being, that you could not blindly dislike someone that you grew up with. This mission resonated closely with George’s view on the world — he just wanted everyone to get along. “We are all more alike than we are different,” he often said.

 

Through his work with the Pilgrims of Ibillin, he led several Holy Land tours, sharing his passion and knowledge of the area with many dozens of people through the years. 

 

George was also very proud of his daughters Samia and Leslie and had a deep devotion to Peggy, his wife of 52 years. 

 

George is survived by his wife Peggy, his daughters Leslie Shalabi (Mike Muench) of Dubuque, Iowa and Samia Shalabi (Jack Williams) of Madison, Wisconsin; his brothers Michael Shalabi (Jeanette), of Haifa, Israel; and Souhael Shalabi of Kingman, Arizona as well as many nieces and nephews, whom he loved dearly. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Fareed. 

 

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, February 22 at The Freethinkers Hall in Sauk City, Wis. (307 Polk Street) from 2 to 6 pm. Friends are encouraged to share memories during a storytelling session (George LOVED telling stories) from 4 to 5 pm. 

 

The family would like to sincerely thank his cardiologist Dr. Eltibi, and especially the nurses and nursing assistants on the cardiovascular unit of Mercy One Medical Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial to the Pilgrims of Ibillin, ℅ Jitasa, 1750 W. Front Street, Boise, ID 83702 or Convivium Urban Farmstead, 2811 Jackson Street, Dubuque, IA 52001.

 

Online condolences for George’s family may be left at www.tristatecremationcenter.com

Memorial Service

Freethinkers Hall
307 Polk Street, Sauk City, Wisconsin
February 22nd, 2020 from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM

19 comments on “George K. Shalabi
  1. Sam Shalaby says:

    Love, Love, Love ❤️

    • Cassandra Dixon says:

      I am so very sorry for your loss – George will always be an inspiration to so so many of us. Love and strength to all of your family, Cassandra

  2. Marge Hill says:

    My sympathy goes out to you Peggy, Samia, and Leslie. I always enjoyed my talks with George. Such a compassionate human being. He will be missed.

  3. Karen and Jim Brickner says:

    Peggy, we were so very sorry to hear of George’s passing. He was a remarkable man and we very much enjoyed visiting with you and George. Please accept our sincere condolences.

  4. Cliff and Cindy Thompson says:

    Our hearts go out to you for your loss of George. May your loving memories hold and warm you. Our sympathies.

  5. Bob Kelter says:

    I recall my first meeting of Mr. Shalabi shortly after I moved to Prairie du Sac in 1978. He struck me as a man of background and I presumed that he had more depth and experience than my first impression.
    Unfortunately, I did not pursue my curiosity, but I never neglected to go out of my way to greet him on the occasions our paths crossed over the years. Somehow, I pictured him a successful and probably benevolent business owner and encouraging towards his family.

    Perhaps, I would have been the better off to have taken the additional step beyond introduction and developed a relationship to have learned his impressive history and accomplishments. Not to mention his continued generosity.
    I trust my intuition often as regards initial impressions. I regret my hesitation for failing to discover another treasure that Sauk Prairie holds.

    My greatest respect to this man and my sincere condolences to his family and all the lives he touched.

    Bob Kelter,
    Prairie du Sac

  6. Lynn and Marilyn VandeBerg says:

    So it’s ‘good-bye’ to our old friend, George. We have wonderful memories of time with you and your family. Rest in peace!

  7. Marcia Colby says:

    George was always so friendly and kind. He always listened and spoke with eloquence. I remember him fondly. My condolences to you Peggy and the girls.

  8. Mary Jane Koch says:

    Our DEEPEST SYMPATHIES, Peggy, Leslie, and Samia. Whenever our paths crossed with George, we were intrigued talking with him. Riding with us to show choir, once, we learned so much about his childhood and the challenges his family encountered. It opened our eyes to the value our freedom and to be thankful where we were born. A chance meeting with George at the “Spoon” was such a pleasant experience. He will be missed.
    Mary & Dusty Koch

  9. Margo Miller says:

    I’m so sorry for your lose. George was gracious and generous in sharing his time and knowledge with others. When my son was doing a report on Palestine for school, George did a marvelous interview with Jackson full of stories of his youth in Palestine. I’m convinced Jackson’s “A” was a direct result of the stories George shared. This is just one example of the many ways George touched so many lives directly and indirectly. He will be missed.

  10. Debra Yngsdal says:

    I am so very sorry to hear of Mr. Shalabi’s passing…..I remember him well from Leystra’s and waiting on him and he was always such a very nice man to talk to…..also his wife Peggy, who was our kids gym teacher….Peggy and girls…..you have my deepest sympathy…..he was a great and gentle man…..may he RIP.

  11. Edna Grotjahn Early says:

    My heart goes out to the family for losing such a great man. I didn’t know George that well but always respected and admired him and the wonderful family he and Peggy raised. Leslie, Samia Ana families will carry one of his important messages to others: “we have more in common than differences”! Rest In Peace, George Shalabi!

  12. Doug Orr says:

    How ironic that George’s heart would be the reason for his death. He worked very hard to preserve his health. Many memories with George cross country skiing (couldn’t keep up with him)canoeing (always in the lead),bowling (always)gave it his all, fixing the neighbors fence (he protected me from the angry dog. Rest in peace George, you will be missed.

  13. Mary and Russ Reddemann says:

    Your sweet George has left us way too soon. He was a man who always gave a little hug, looked you square in the eyes, listened intently and humble above all else. What a man, a father who’s spirit will be sorely missed. Thank you George and thank you Peggy, Leslie and Samia for sharing this great man. RIP friend.

  14. Nick Dacloush says:

    I am very sorry about your loss. George was my teacher in Haifa

  15. Jamal Kharbush says:

    Rest in Peace, George!

  16. Lynn Mobley says:

    My deepest sympathy Leslie, Sami and Peggy. May you celebrate George’s extraordinary life of hard work and devotion to all of you and the causes he held most dear. He will be deeply missed. Remember him with the love and joy he brought to everyone. This world has lost a special man.

  17. Janet Jrostkowski says:

    George’s obituary was fascinating. We were acquainted through our visits at Via Roma, but he lived an even fuller life than we ever knew. Mom, Dad, and Joyce would like to send their condolences offline if you’ll send your new address/phone.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. George was a special man.

  18. Dimitri Cados says:

    Dear Mike and Jeanette…so sorry for your/our loss. I just heard about George’s passing from Jim Koch in Wisconsin. Have fond memories of George. In Greek we say “Zoi se Sas” meaning “Life to You”.

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