Young lawyer was 'eternal optimist'


By John Minnis
Legal News

Dearborn solo practitioner George Saba Jr. lived everyday as if it were his last … for good reason. He was born with a congenital heart defect. Any day could have been his last.

Saba’s last day was Friday, Feb. 4, 2011, when he died of a massive heart attack. He was 26.

But, according to his older brother, Paul, also an attorney, George Saba wasted not a minute of the life he had.

“He used his ailment as a way to experience life,” he said, “to live his life to the fullest.”

While Saba lived “a pretty normal life,” an early experience had a profound effect on the youth. A doctor had advised that the young Saba, due to his heart condition, plan on a sedate career, such as computer science, “or something like that,” his brother said.

In a personal statement when he applied to get into law school at Wayne State University, George Saba wrote that he used that early experience as a motivational tool to prove the doctor wrong. Instead of computer science, he chose the law, like his older brother.

Saba graduated from Wayne Law in 2009. He had earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in 2006.

“As soon as he graduated, he hung up his shingle,” Saba said. “He became a solo practitioner.”

Licensed in Michigan and New York, he primarily did criminal defense work and volunteered for his alma mater’s Free Legal Aid Clinic.

“His goal was to help those who didn’t have a voice, who couldn’t afford to hire an attorney,” Saba said.

Further against doctor’s orders to eschew anything exhilarating, George Saba learned to be a stand-up comedian.

He appeared at several local comedy clubs and even at an Arab-American Comedy Festival in New York. (Search for “George Saba” on YouTube to see him perform.)

Paul Saba said some of his best memories of his brother are helping write his stand-up routines.

“A lot of his routine came from life experiences growing up as an Arab-American,” he said.  “At lot of his routine were true stories.”

George Saba, in his personal statement, wrote, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”

He was extremely passionate about sports and a devout Detroit Pistons fan. When he had open-heart surgery 10 years ago, the entire Pistons’ roster signed a get-well card. Lindsay Hunter, who became George Saba’s all-time-favorite player, wrote, “What is impossible to man is made possible by God.”

More than 1,500 attended George Saba’s wake at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church in Livonia, where the funeral was held the following day, Feb. 7.

“Many people came up to me and told me how infectious his smile was,” the brother said.

George Saba Jr. is survived by his father, George Sr., director of immigration services at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services; mother,
Itidal, a retired Detroit Public Schools teacher; brother, Paul (Jomana); sister Janan, a public health coordinator at ACCESS; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Following his brother’s death, Saba discovered his brother kept a yearly “bucket list.” This year’s list included traveling abroad, reading 13 books, going to a ballgame (besides at Comerica Park) and focusing on meditation.

“When he died,” Saba said, “we all appreciated how much he lived each day of his life.”

One of George Saba’s favorite books was “Yes Man” by British humorist Danny Wallace. In “Yes Man,” which was later made into a movie starring Jim Carrey, an introverted bank employee finds out that life can become much more thrilling by simply saying “yes.”

“Anytime somebody asks you something, just say ‘yes’ and it will change your life,” Saba said. “That book really shaped his life, and as an attorney.”

Saba said his brother never complained about his ailment.

“He was an eternal optimist,” Saba said, “and believed that if you put out positive energy, positive outcomes ensue.”

Donations to the “George A. Saba, Jr. Memorial Fund” may be sent to 12958 Michigan Ave., Dearborn, MI, 48126, c/o George Saba Sr.
Donations will go to charities, such as the Adult Congenital Heart Association, and also to fund a scholarship for writing.