Amelia and Joseph Salem Papers


Amelia and Joseph Salem Papers


Lebanese--United States


Biographical/Historical Note

Joseph Ramon Salem was born in Hammana, Lebanon on May 5, 1909, to Freda George and Shikery Salem. Freda and Shikery had four children: Renee (also called Rena), Bertha, Joseph, and Albert. In June of 1912, Shikery Salem immigrated to the United States. He joined members of Freda’s family in New Bern, North Carolina and worked as a peddler in order to gain the funds required to bring his family to North Carolina. The onset of World War I, however, interrupted the family's plans to reunite in the United States as communication between the United States and Ottoman Empire was cut off.

Back in Hammana, Freda and the four children faced isolation from members of their extended family and were forced to work in fields by supporters of the Central Powers. They also felt the effects of the famine suffered during the war. In 1917, Shikery enlisted in the United States Army, becoming the first Lebanese American from Eastern North Carolina to do so. He served in Battery A of the 113 Field Artillery and fought in France, including in the Argonne Forest. He was awarded honors for bravery for saving the lives of two superior officers. In 1918, Shikery re-applied for naturalization and was granted United States citizenship. His military service helped Shikery reunite his family; friends he made in the military, including Robert Haines, fellow soldiers, and the Red Cross, helped Shikery locate his family and bring them to New Bern in 1920.

In partnership with fellow Lebanese-American Frederick Habeeb, Shikery purchased the New Bern Bargain House, the Craven Fruit Store, a gas station, a convenience store, and a taxi service. Although the Salem family were Maronites, they attended the St. Paul's, a Roman Catholic church, in New Bern.

Renee Salem married David Halen of New Jersey. In the 1930s, Renee and her family assisted Shikery in running his businesses; later, they moved to New Jersey, where she lived until her death. Renee and David had five children: Frank, Raymond, Louis, Lucille, and Theresa. Bertha Salem married Charles K. Fadel, a Lebanese American from Charlotte. The couple settled in Fayetteville, where they opened and operated the Palace Grill. They had four children: Sammy, Frieda, Albert, and Shikery. Albert Salem, the youngest son of Freda and Shikery, married Vivian Zaytoun, daughter of Ellis and Isabel Zaytoun, on July 14, 1937. Albert earned seven battle stars working as a radio operator for the United States Navy. Albert and Vivian had four children: Albert, Jr., Richard, Robert, and Mary Isabel. Albert and Vivian lived in North Carolina before retiring to Tampa, Florida.

Joseph Salem graduated high school as valedictorian in 1929 and then attended the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering (now North Carolina State University), where he studied electrical engineering. In 1942, Joseph married Amelia Wehbie, daughter of Mickel Mettrey and Mary Saliba Wehbie, with whom he had four children: Jay, Michael Ray, Donna, and Ronald. The same year, he joined the United States Army and served as a cryptanalytic officer at Arlington Hall during World War II. Joseph remained in the Army Reserve until 1963, when he was transferred to the Retired Reserve. Joe had a career as an electrical engineer in Raleigh, and also served as City Electrical Engineer for the town of New Bern. After retiring, Joe became a substitute teacher. He died at age 102.

Amelia Mettrey Wehbie Salem graduated from Hugh Morson High School in Raleigh and Hardbargers Business College. She worked for the Red Cross during World War II, Craven Regional Medical Center, Raleigh News and Observer, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, and the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Amelia was known for her Lebanese cooking, her greenhouse propagation of camellias, Japanese maples, and hybrid tea roses. She passed away on February 5, 2009.

Scope/Content Note

This collection contains materials related to the lives of Joseph Ramon Salem and Amelia Mettrey Wehbie Salem. The collection contains photographs, certificates, and newspaper articles documenting the lives of family members in North Carolina.


Ronald Salem


Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies


circa 1919-2009


Collection description written by Claire A. Kempa


Donor retains full ownership of any and all copyright currently controlled in agreement with Khayrallah Center. Nonexclusive right to authorize all uses of these materials for non-commercial research, scholarly, or other educational purposes are granted to Khayrallah Center pursuant to Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA).




KC 0048

Collection Tree

This collection is a part of a larger collection that has been divided into more specific collections.

Khayrallah Center Collections
Amelia and Joseph Salem Papers