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Just Call Me Nute

First published November 30, 2022 by the Morning News and SCNow and reproduced here with permission.


The remarkable impact of Adele Baroody Kassab

December 15, 1922 to January 20, 2022

Actually, nobody in the family knows the origins of the nickname “Nute,” probably originating with Adele’s mother from Lebanese origin.

Adele Jessamine Baroody grew up in small town Florence, SC in a sprawling home on West Evans and Kuker Streets, among friendly Lebanese neighbors along Kuker Street with sister, Florence, and two younger brothers, Naseeb and Joseph, the oldest child of Naseeb and Selwa Baroody, Lebanon born. Her brothers tormented her endlessly, brother NB, a biology student, often hiding cadaver parts around her bedroom and closet. Her father over the years had built two successful businesses in the Food and Beverage spaces (NB Baroody Company and NB Baroody Beverage) after discovering a young Florence town about twenty years before, first pedaling Brach candies and then vegetables; he, after success, moved into the center of the burgeoning Florence Lebanese community attracting other Lebanese to the area. Adele and her brothers all became leaders and pillars of the general, medical and business communities, products of the local public schools graduating from Florence High School.

A product of her times, she went to a quality women’s finishing school, Coker College, in nearby Hartsville, SC; there she also developed further training in music, her passion. When her husband, John Kassab, a great mutual match, John from Pennsylvania near the Delaware border and the Brandywine Valley, took over one of her family’s businesses, continued her passion and dedication to public education, which continued all their lives with time, focus and money. John was older than Adele, he not joining World War II until about age 29.

Returning to Florence after a romantic honeymoon, traveling by train to Mexico, she and John eventually settled on about an acre on Jackson Avenue remodeling an existing house in 13 construction phases, to raise their two girls and to face the world together. The girls, Dianne Adele, January 25, 1951, and Elizabeth Ann, February 12, 1954, have fond memories of the family times both there and in Myrtle Beach. Later the Kassab couple developed a magnificent garden with a pool house that grew and grew aside an early “Esther Williams” designed swimming pool. Adele also found time to become a noted local piano teacher….and then later, much more. Adele filled the house with her life - she could never bring herself to throw anything away. Usually, but not limiting, music somehow ran through the lines of the rest of her life.

Adele became active in the local First Presbyterian Church as a Christian Lebanese and almost immediately got involved in the church music programs, in their choir and in their Children’s Choir. She had time for faithful attendance and for a time directed their Sunday School programs, teaching a class, too. She was a longtime member of the Florence Masterworks choir, singing with the Choir right up until she became homebound. Bonds and close friendships formed in, through and around the church and music endured lifelong; the Hazelwoods, Beverly and Bill, were part of this musical/church eternal fraternity – Bev delights in her Adele memories. Adele enlivened John’s Whopper Saturdays, she often was the one to bring the Whoppers (she always was very attentive to John), a casual get-together most Saturdays at 1 PM hosted at the Kassab pool house with neighbors and friends and occasional Burke/Imbeau visitors. Adele bravely joined the Bevettes exercise group, Shirley a co-member, often joining in Hazelwood pool exercises and work outs and also shared her investment expertise with the Bevesters, an investment group. She was “just one of the folks.”

Both she and John enjoyed gardening, often working their gardens, themselves. She developed a magnificent garden campus on Jackson Street and similarly at their beach house. A cute story (I actually believe it’s apocryphal, but John loved telling it): one Saturday afternoon, John was working on some bushes along the front of their home, when a passerby asked if she could hire him to work at her place – John without hesitation and oh, so seriously, responded, “well, at this home part of my payment is to spend time with the mistress of the house”; offer withdrawn and the enquirer shot her car quickly onward. Adele became a Master Gardner as well, entering shows as entrant and later as judge, and a leading member of the Wildwood Garden Club. She served state government as a member of the South Carolina Parks Commission.

The full extent of Adele and John’s community work, support and donations will probably never be fully known. She served on the McLeod Medical Center Foundation Board. She volunteered at the Manna House, a local Florence soup kitchen and food pantry supported by donors and the religious community. The Kassab work with Francis Marion University was from the school’s beginning until their deaths. The Kassabs were involved with the early politics and site selection for the school, working with the Stokes and Hyman families and others to establish the University at its current site, moving away from the former USC- Florence campus. In those days John was a leader of the Florence Chamber of Commerce and helped to recruit Stone Container and DuPont to Florence. Over the years the Kassabs established excellent personal connections with each University President from Drs. Walter (Doug) Smith to Luther Fred Carter. And they were generous with their time, their support and their money, helping to fund the John Kassab Tennis Courts, the Adele Kassab Recital Hall and the Adele Kassab Art Gallery with subsequent improvements. They have funded the John and Adele Kassab Scholarship Fund. Almost from the beginning they hosted each year an important “must attend” private dinner at their magnificent home for all the new FMU faculty members and in addition often held Garden Parties for the University.

Although careful to never upstage John, Adele long had an interest in community politics and business, often giving advice to folks close to her. Shirley and I met the Kassabs through Shirley’s parents, Frances and Donald Burke, business folks in Toronto. The Kassabs and Moodys, once the Mitchells, occasionally traveled to Canada to visit the Burkes both in Toronto and at their Muskoka summer cottage. We joined them through their Florence supper club, Shirley and I being invited to about every other of their dinners through the year particularly at holidays. At our first dinner event Charlie Mitchell introduced John Kassab as his banker, and it took me about a year to get the joke, but in fact Kassab did help to finance Mitchell in his “early days” and were long time business partners in a host of ventures. During those days Adele gave me discrete briefs about the politics of the Symphony Orchestra and in the Civic Center fight, she quietly would also advise. Hopefully not too presumptive of me, but we bonded during these days and over her last ten years Shirley and I visited Adele frequently and drove her to events around Florence. She loved to talk about my most recent essay.

Adele’s legacy lives on. Shirley and I both loved her dearly.

We wish we could have called her “Nute.”

Historical and Editorial assistance from Dianne Beauchamp and Elizabeth Kolias.

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