Obituary: Ayoub Yousef Talhami, 1928-2014
Ayoub Talhami, former Assistant Chief Engineer at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, and a prominent member of the American Palestinian community in Chicago, was born in Shefa ‘Amr, Palestine. He was a volunteer fighter with Palestinian militias during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
He graduated from the elite Arab College in Jerusalem in 1948, a school for the training of civil servants during the British Mandate government. He worked in Libya from 1951 until 1955, first as a teacher of English in public schools, and later as a purchasing agent at the American Wheelus Airbase. He completed his higher education in the United States, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1960. He earned a Master’s Degree from University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1965, also in Civil Engineering.
His first job in that field was as an engineer for the City of Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1962, and for the City of Racine, Wisconsin two years later. His career in Chicago began with working for Greengard, Inc., in land development, before moving to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in 1968. He headed the Sewers Department before rising up through civil service exams to the position of Assistant Chief Engineer, a position he held until retiring in 1997. While working for MWRD, he was responsible for the design of several flood control projects, as well as the Deep Tunnel Project. He was known among his associates as “Mr. Flood-Control.”
Mr. Talhami died at age 85, after suffering complications from earlier colon cancer surgery. He was very active in the Illinois Engineering Society, where he was elected as head of the Chicago Chapter. In 1987, he was honored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and State of Illinois-Office of Water Resources for promoting inter-agency cooperation on the Thornton Reservoir. In 1991, the American Society of Civil Engineers named him Civil Engineer of the Year. In 1997 State of Illinois – Office of Water Resources recognized him for his 28 year of service promoting flood control.
Mr. Talhami was also active in Arab-American affairs. He was an officer of the Arab American Congress for Palestine and worked with collagues Taki Kalla and Northwestern University Professor Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. Talhami was at one time a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and served as the head of its Chicago Chapter. He was one of the founders of The Chicago Mayor’s Advisory Council on Arab Affairs and founded the Arab-American Association of Civil Engineers and Architects. He was also active with the Boy Scouts of America.
He was an avid traveler, a multi-linguist who spoke Italian and Spanish, in addition to English and his native Arabic. He is survived by a sister and a brother in Palestine, and by his wife of 52 years, Ghada, and his three children Yousef, Lamees and Ghassan. Visitation will be at the
Donnellan Funeral Home, 10045 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL 60077, from 5:00 – 9:00
On Thursday, June 26 and Mass will be read for him at St. John the Baptist Greek Catholic Church, 200 E. North Ave, North Lake, IL 60164 on Friday June 27
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are appreciated to: United Holy Land Fund,, 6000 W. 79th St., Burbank, 60459.
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