Jamiel (Jim) Jabara, 93, died Sunday, Jan. 16, at St. Mary Hospital in Livonia where he had been battling several health problems.
Mr. Jabara, a civil engineer, moved to the Plymouth community in 1960 with his late wife, Jean, and two sons. Mr. Jabara subsequently served on nearly every city committee, advisory board, civic and business group and commission in addition to his eight-year term as mayor of the city. His list of accomplishments and contributions to the community was acknowledged last year when he was honored with the Ruth Huston-Whipple Award for Civic Engagement.
Mr. Jabara was considered a treasured resource in the city and on his birthday Jan. 13 a group of local businessmen and friends arrived at the hospital where he was in care to help him celebrate. Their somewhat boisterous arrival drew the negative attention of hospital security forcing the celebration to take place near the hospital front door where Mr. Jabara was wheeled by staff.
Tributes and accolades for Mr. Jabara poured in calling him “a treasure in the community” and lamenting his death as a loss for the entire community. Officials and business leaders throughout the area recalled the positive impact he made in the community throughout his career.
Mr. Jabara was inducted into the Plymouth Hall of Fame in 2000 where his list of contributions to the community were recorded in the Congressional Record of the United States Senate.
Mr. Jabara was the original organizer of the Kiwanis Club of Colonial Plymouth where he remained active. He served as the first president of the group beginning in 1966.
He was active with Boy Scout Troop 1531 at Bird School; the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra and the YMCA during his early years in the community. In 1963, he was named as Man of the Year by the Plymouth Junior Chamber of Commerce and was also elected to the Plymouth City Commission that year. He was one of the youngest commissioners ever elected in the city.
He served as mayor of the city from 1964 until 1972 and then returned to serve an unexpired term on the commission in 1986. He is credited with securing the financing necessary renovate the South Main Baptist Church building into the offices of The Salvation Army where the organization remains today. His uncanny ability to find solutions to unwieldy problems was legendary in the community where he was known to always “know someone” or be able to “take a look at” a situation. It was Mr. Jabara's involvement and typical soft-spoken approach that is credited with improving a fractious relationship between officials from the city and the township in the 60s.
He was the chairman of the 35th District Court Building Committee and served as a member of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors where he was the longest serving member. He also volunteered his time, fund raising and management skills to both the Plymouth Fall Festival and Ice Festival committees.
Mr. Jabara, who was raised in Mancelona, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. He earned his engineering degree from Michigan Technological University in 1950, where he also later served on the board of directors. He earned his master's degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan. He and his older brother, Kal, owned Plymouth Tank and Fabricating Co. Mr. Jabara was involved in numerous construction developments and businesses throughout the area during the past seven decades and his involvement had slowed only marginally in the past few years, friends said.
His good humor and gentle smile were a trademark of his character and respect he showed to those with whom he dealt on every level, they added.
“Take some, put some back,” was Mr. Jabara's often quoted philosophy. In an interview last year, he explained that he believed in the vital importance of contributing to the community. He said he learned the value of that involvement from his father, a Lebanese grocer who offered credit to everyone in need during World War II, without expecting repayment. Mr. Jabara often said he lived by the principles of kindness and generosity he learned from his father.
“If everybody gave just a little bit, imagine what the world would be like,” Mr. Jabara said during the interview last year.
Mr. Jabara practiced that philosophy and was a generous donor to many civic causes and charities. He was known, friends said, for his dedication to the greater good of the community and his gentle kindness along with his iron determination.
In addition to his many other altruistic memberships, Mr. Jabara was a member of both the Plymouth Men’s Cooking Club and the Men’s Book Club.
Mr. Jabara was the owner of J.M.J. Properties, a real estate development and management firm he founded in 1976. He spent his early career as a structural steel designer and also worked in sanitary engineering at Commonwealth Associates, Inc. He was co-owner and vice-president of Enviro-Fab from 1959 until 1976.
A common theme in tributes to Mr. Jabara was the loss of his unprecedented leadership in the Plymouth community.
Mr. Jabara is survived by his wife of 25 years, Anita, whom he married following the death of his first wife after 40 years of marriage. He is also survived by his two sons, Michael and Marty; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were not complete or available at press time.