Baha'i News -- Obituary: Yousef Samarghandi

Obituary: Yousef Samarghandi

No one could deprive him of faith in God

By Rebecca Billman,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER — Yousef Samarghandi was a man who knew both great wealth and the most humble of circumstances. Twice in his life, all his worldly possessions were taken from him.

He was robbed because of his religion. But no one could strip him of his faith in God, which helped him persevere.

The first time he became a victim of religious intolerance, it was the communist atheism of the Soviet Union that forced his family to flee their home in Samarghand, Uzbekistan. The second time, it was the Islamic fundamentalism of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that pushed them out of Iran.

Throughout these tribulations, Mr. Samarghandi adhered to his Baha'i beliefs by cultivating faith, love, compassion, courage and humility.

Mr. Samarghandi, 87, died of a stroke Monday at Hospice of Cincinnati in Blue Ash. He had lived in West Chester.

Of Persian ancestry, he was born in Samarghand, an ancient city in Central Asia that had been under the control of Russia since the mid-19th century. He was 12 when his family fled to Iran after the city became part of the Soviet Union.

Although the upheaval deprived him of a formal education, Mr. Samarghandi became a successful and wealthy businessman in Iran, owning hotels and jewelry shops.

In 1979, when he was 64, Mr. Samarghandi and his wife, Vajdieh, traveled to Illinois to attend a son's wedding. While there, their property — including their home — was confiscated by the Islamic regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

For the second time, Mr. Samarghandi found himself penniless in a strange country.

“He never looked back — never dwelt on the things he lost,” said his son Majid of Symmes Township. “The faith was his life.”

Instead, Mr. Samarghandi adapted to his circumstances. For decades, he had served in various elected or appointed positions with the Baha'i faith in Iran. So he took up working for the Baha'i administration in the United States, serving on the Local Spiritual Assembly in Illinois and Greater Cincinnati.

In Wood River, Ill., where he lived until moving to West Chester in 1992, he was in the habit of rising at 3 a.m. to walk for five hours before reporting to work at a fruit stand, where he hefted 100-pound boxes of fruit and raked gravel in the driveway. Mr. Samarghandi ended up in Greater Cincinnati because his two sons are here. In his West Chester neighborhood, he was known as the friendly man who waved and smiled as he walked.

In addition to his son Majid and his wife of 59 years, Vajdieh, survivors include: his other son, Hamid of West Chester; a daughter, Haydeh Munibi of Canberra, Australia; and seven grandchildren.

Funeral: 7 p.m. Thursday, Norman Chapel at Spring Grove Cemetery. Memorials: Hospice of Cincinnati, 4310 Cooper Road, Cincinnati 45242.

©Copyright 2002, The Cincinnati Enquirer

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