Fred A. Kassis, craftsman of handmade orthopedic shoes and co-founder of Kassis Brothers Shoes, died Wednesday. He was 85.
Born Sept. 4, 1927, in Zahle, Lebanon, he was the son of Aziz Kassis and Zakia Shahid Kassis. As a young apprentice, he learned the trade of boot- and shoe-making from his uncle. In 1948, he moved to Australia to begin his orthopedic shoe business.
Kassisí grandmother, parents and siblings had relocated to Charleston when his sister married a local man. He joined them with a visitorís visa in 1957. He hoped to start a business, but immigration quotas prevented him from working. He was facing a deportation deadline by the end of that year.
U.S. Sen. Olin D. Johnston and U.S. Rep. L. Mendel Rivers sponsored a special bill, claiming it would be a federal offense to deprive him of permanent residency as his special skill in orthopedy would be beneficial to the country. The bill passed and was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958.
Kassis and his brother, John, opened Kassis Brothers Shoes in 1960. Their initial shop locations were on King Street and decades later, it is still familyowned and operated in West Ashley.
He is survived by his wife, Joanne Jones Kassis; sisters Yvonne Shahid and Renee Kadlecik; brother Raymond Kassis; two daughters; a son; and six grandchildren.
A service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Charleston.
Arrangements are being handled by Stuhrís West Ashley Chapel of Charleston.