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Elie Farhat came to the United States with his two sons in the 1990’s as a Lebanese immigrant. He lived in Northeast Minneapolis, enjoying his life surrounded by friends and family. The 92-year-old died of COVID-19 April 16.
His granddaughter, Elianne Farhat, described Farhat as a quiet man, but his love and support for his family resonated through his efforts to be there for them in every way possible. Before he arrived in the United States, Farhat was an orphan who built a family and career as a banker in Lebanon.
As he grew older, he loved long walks and spending time with his family.
He also enjoyed spending time with neighborhood friends, smoking cigarettes, and playing backgammon, his Elianne said.
She added that his laugh was probably the loudest thing about him. As her grandparents aged, her dad, James Farhat, became their primary caretaker for almost a decade.
“[He was] really almost working full time, like a second job, to navigate a care system that was not designed to work for my family or people like my family,” Elianne said.
She recalled visiting her grandparents when they still lived in Beirut, Lebanon, when she was young. Every morning, Elie Farhat would ask the family what they wanted for breakfast. Then he would go on his morning walk around town and bring fresh breakfast back home.
“He just loved doing things like that for us,” Elianne said, “and showing his love and affection in the way that he showed up for us in daily ways.” She added that her grandfather encouraged her and her siblings to be “good people and pushed us for that.”
Sahan Journal COVID-19 Memorial Project
Here at Sahan Journal, we’ve committed to memorializing the lives of Minnesota’s new Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. Imagine a photo album with all their faces and names. Flipping through the pages, we’d see our family, friends—and, of course, more.
We’ve begun creating some version of that album and have documented stories about people from the Hmong, Latino, and East African communities. We’re covering people who have disproportionately suffered through this pandemic, by speaking with people who knew and loved them.
Elianne and her brother, Elie, are both named after their grandfather.
“We’re living his name in our lives, and I can see him and his face, particularly in the faces of my siblings and rest of my family.” Elianne Farhat said.
Elianne said her dad received a phone call from the long-term facility where Elie stayed and was told that his roommate was diagnosed with COVID-19. The family understood immediately what that meant—Elie Farhat was diagnosed with COVID-19 soon after.
The family had not been allowed to visit Elie while he lived in the long-term care facility during the pandemic. They also couldn’t visit him while he was sick with COVID-19 in the hospital. That took an emotional toll on the family. Elie understood and could speak Arabic, but he did not speak or understand English well and the Farhat family worried that he was not getting the communication he needed while in the hospital.
Since COVID-19 had affected the family’s ability to hold family gatherings for cultural traditions and rituals, they set up a chain of videos led by James Farhat to give prayer for Elie.
“I just think so much of our experience around his passing is sad, and is hard, and is painful,” Elianne Farhat said. “He instilled in us the resiliency and the love, the care, the connection in the community we need to get through it.” That’s a powerful legacy for him to have left, Elianne added.
Elie Farhat is preceded in death by his wife of 70 years Jeanne D’Arc; and son Roger. He is survived by his children, James, Toufic, Joseph, and Maggie Farhat; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Interested in the Sahan Journal COVID-19 Memorial Project? Here’s how you can contribute.
We’ve started finding their stories, but we have a long way to go to memorialize Minnesotans from immigrant communities. We’ve expanded this project to include community contributions. If you’ve lost a family member, a friend, or a coworker to the coronavirus, we can honor them with your help.
1. By filling out the form below, your responses will provide us with the information to write an obituary about your loved one.
2. If you share your contact information at the end of the form, a reporter may reach out to learn more about the story you’ve shared. They will also ask for a photo. This step is entirely voluntary: It’s there to help us find out more for the story.
3. Our reporters will then catalog these stories on Sahan Journal’s website, where readers can remember those who lost their lives to COVID-19, while also learning about what made their lives special.