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Obituary for Jean Khawam

Jean Khawam
Dr. Jean Raffoul Khawam, 71, of Salem, VA and Grand Rapids, MI, passed away Sunday, May 21, 2017. Preceding him in death are his parents, Raffoul and Claude Khawam; brother, Andre Khawam; and nephew, Philippe Khawam. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Souhair Khawam; children, Souha Khawam (Reggie Bryson), Nada Khawam, and Paul Khawam; siblings, Joseph, Michele, and Gabriel Khawam; and grandchildren, Rayya and Gabriel Bryson.

Of Palestinian descent, Jean Khawam was born on June 25, 1945 to Claude and Raffoul Khawam, and spent his early years in Syria. His family later settled in Beirut, Lebanon. He met the love of his life, Souhair Kotran while he was studying to be a doctor at the Université Saint Joseph School of Medicine in Beirut. Two years later, in 1970, they married, and that same year they moved to the United States so Jean could complete his medical residency at Georgetown University. Soon after, they welcomed their daughter Souha into the world, with her sister, Nada and brother, Paul, following shortly. With the civil war raging on in Lebanon, he and Souhair decided to settle permanently in the United States.

In 1975, after completing his fellowship training in Neonatology at Milwaukee Children's Hospital, Jean began his lifelong career with a team of caring partners running the Neonatal ICU at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was known for his gentle touch caring for the sickest of babies, and compassionate love and guidance for parents facing the most difficult times. Under his and his partners’ care, what began as a small neonatal unit grew into a major regional center (The DeVos Children’s Hospital) that could care for more than 90 premature babies at one time. He retired after 33 years of practice, and touched the lives of countless families and their beautiful children that are still thriving today.

Jean could never sit still when there was work to be done. He’d often come home after long shifts at the hospital and immediately begin helping around the house. He did not mind going to neighbors’ homes to help with their medical problems, though he would often say he was useless if his patient weighed more than two pounds. His love for music spanned every culture, and he was always excited to share his latest find, whether it was Sarah Brighton or Simon Shaheen. He and Souhair also shared a love for travel, and as young parents headed off to Europe with their children and no itinerary, mapping their adventure as they went.

For Jean, family was the most important thing in the world. With relatives living across the globe, Jean looked forward to weekends when long distance calls, and later Skype video, could connect him to those he loved across time zones. His grandchildren, Rayya and Gaby, were a huge source of joy. As a baby, little Rayya would only stop crying in her grandpa’s arms. Jean and Souhair retired to Virginia to be with them and help them grow into the beautiful children they are today.

While Jean was often the quietest person in a room, his presence exuded gentle kindness. He was generous with those in need, and never failed to lend a helping hand. And he would do so quietly, with the generous spirit of Christ in his heart. He was a member of St. Roberts Church in Grand Rapids, MI, and Our Lady of Nazareth Church in Roanoke, Virginia. His faith guided him in everything he did, providing him joy and solace during difficult times. -While his family are so sorry to lose him, they are so honored and proud to have been a part of his life, and will cherish his legacy that touched countless lives beyond our own.

The family would like to extend special thanks to all of the wonderful doctors who gave Jean so much of their time, especially Dr. Richard Butler of Carilion, and Dr. Stephen Caldwell of UVA. Also, a very special thanks to all of the nurses in the 8th floor ICU, the Palliative Care Unit, at Raleigh Court Rehab, and with Carilion Hospice. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Our Lady Of Nazareth Catholic Church.

A period of visitation will be from 6 until 8 p.m. on Friday, May 26, 2017 at John M. Oakey & Son Funeral Home, Salem. A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 27, 2017 at Our Lady Of Nazareth, 2505 Electric Rd, Roanoke, VA 24018, with Rev Joseph P. Lehman officiating. A committal will follow at Sherwood Memorial Park.
Online condolences may be expressed at www.johnmoakey.com.
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