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Celebrating a life of service and cultural impact

Posted by Sarah Sawler on February 11, 2021 in News, Alumni & Friends
Edward Francis Arab (1915-1944)
Edward Francis Arab (1915-1944)

Every year, on the third Monday in February, Nova Scotia celebrates Heritage Day, a statutory holiday described as “an annual reminder of our storied past and an opportunity to honour the remarkable people, places and events that have contributed to this province’s unique heritage.” 

This year, the spotlight falls on the late Lieutenant Edward Francis Arab (BA’35, LLB’37).

Like many of the people who served in the Second World War, Arab’s life was devastatingly short. In the 29 years before he was killed during the Battle of Scheldt, however, he accomplished a lot — including establishing his own law practice and helping to found the Canadian Lebanon Society of Halifax. In his early involvement with the society, he instilled values that are still present today. 

“He started the society because he wanted to preserve his mother tongue,” says Georgette Faddoul, president of the society. “Within about thirty years, we established the Lebanese Heritage Language School so our children could continue to learn their language. He wanted the society to do community work, which we still do today. He also wanted us to remember where we came from.” 

And they do. In addition to presenting cultural workshops and participating in festivals, the society traditionally hosted an annual Lebanese Emigrant’s Day. At the event, an award was presented to a member of the community who has achieved success while also giving back to society.

Before all of this, however, Arab attended Dalhousie University — and according to the Dalhousie Gazette articles that were published while Arab was in school, he was just as involved in university life as he was in the wider community. He was on the boxing team and an associate editor at The Gazette, but he was most widely recognized for his accomplishments in Sodales, the debate society, where he argued for and against college hazing, Canadian involvement in the developing “European War,” and whether it was preferable to live in Moscow or Berlin.

The most colourful evidence of Arab’s university exploits is an article from the February 7, 1936 edition of the Gazette, titled “Buckley and Arab Awarded Honour.” It’s difficult to figure out exactly what happened due to the article’s tongue-in-cheek tone, but according to the story, Arab and a classmate, John Buckley (LLB’37), came to the rescue of another student who had fallen through the ice in the Northwest Arm. Together, Arab and Buckley used a piece of rope to pull the hapless student out of the water and were later rewarded with a leather medal from the Law Society for their efforts to save their classmate.

People still remember Arab fondly today. Faddoul even has her own personal connection to Arab; he was the best man at her uncle Anthony Salah’s wedding, when he married Josephine Arab on June 3, 1942. Most of all, however, he’s remembered for his accomplishments.

“He must have been very dedicated and smart to achieve what he did in such a short time and at such a young age,” says Faddoul. “For lot of people who came from Lebanon or lived in Lebanon at the time, it was a privilege to have an education. The schooling was an accomplishment on its own. To have a law degree at twenty-two and open your own firm, that’s unheard of.”