Searching for her family after the 2003 Reynoldsburg High School commencement, Samar Shalash spotted her father with flowers in hand and arms wide open.

Abdel Shalash hugged and kissed the oldest of his six children, then impulsively removed her purple mortarboard and plopped it cockeyed on his head.

“Every time one of his children graduated,” said his wife, Amne, “he felt as though he had succeeded.”

With each ensuing graduation, the father performed the playful ritual — a Palestinian immigrant reaching out to take hold of his American dream.

“He always put it on crooked,” Amne said, “and the kids would have to straighten it out.”

For as long as she and the children can remember, the Reynoldsburg patriarch preached the value of education, working long hours so they could focus on their studies.

“He always told us, ‘You get your degree; I’ll take care of everything else.’ “

Abdel’s’ commitment to seeing them build a better life will be validated again this afternoon when Samar earns a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ohio State University.

Abdel won’t be among the proud parents savoring the occasion, though. He won’t be in Ohio Stadium to grab the cap.

Five months ago, robbers at his East Side store made sure of it. . .

Ahmad Al-Akhras, vice chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Abdel’s funeral was the largest Muslim service in central Ohio in the past 15 years.

Abdel, he said, contributed frequently to Muslim charitable causes.

And he gave generously, some store patrons recalled, when their money was tight.

Soon after his death, customers built a storefront memorial out of cards, letters, candles and stuffed animals.

“Not too many shop owners get a tribute — many of them are disliked within a neighborhood,” Al-Akhras said. “What does that tell you about Abdel’s character?”


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