Posted by AFSHEEN101 on 4/10/2006
Afghan emigrant to Eugene had the recipe for making friends
By Mark Baker
Published: Sunday, April 9, 2006
He could dance and drink and cook and, when he was in his prime, no one cut a more dashing and charming figure than Sardar Abdul Ghafoor.
He attracted friends like ice cream cones attract tongues. Like a shish kebab attracts meat. Like Eugene's Saturday Market attracts tie-dye.
So when the market opened for business this year, eight days ago, if the tie-dye wasn't missing, something else was. Something and someone between the Bangkok Grill and the Blazing Chef.
Where was Afghani Cuisine? Where was Ghafoor?
"Somebody should write a book," says retired University of Oregon professor Ed Coleman, one of Ghafoor's countless good friends.
Maybe that would explain it all.
Explain the ties to Afghanistan's royal family, explain the estimated more than 100 relatives Ghafoor helped sneak out of their homeland and into Pakistan, and then America, whether wrapped in rugs or covered up in the back of a truck. Explain how Ghafoor, as he was simply known to family and friends, himself crossed the border into Pakistan as a teenager, and how he ended up in Eugene, where he spent the last 45 years of his life. advertisement
A life that was lived for who knows how many years? Seventy? Seventy-five? More? Ghafoor succumbed to cancer on March 2 after being diagnosed with the disease seven years ago. His age was somewhat of a mystery.
"We have no clue," says his ex-wife, 81-year-old Fatima Roy of Eugene. According to Department of Motor Vehicle records, Ghafoor was born Jan. 5, 1929. That would make him 77. Jan. 5 was the birthdate "we made up for his immigration papers" when he came to America, "because we knew he was born in the winter," Roy says. However, he always celebrated his birthday on Oct. 10, says Karima Zuercher of Eugene, one of his two daughters.
After two decades of shish kebabs and quabili and bolani, but mostly of making friends, Ghafoor's booth in the market's International Food Court on April 1 was replaced by flowers, a burning candle, a black-and-white photograph of Ghafoor and an order pad from Ritta's Burritos, another food booth at the market, for mourners to write notes on.
For many, even some who were longtime friends, it was a surprise. Even if Ghafoor wasn't around much in the past couple of years, the booth was always there and he would always check in now and then.
"He didn't want anybody to know he was ill," says Ritta Dreier, owner of Ritta's Burritos and a friend for 20 years, since Ghafoor started his booth at the market. "We all knew he was getting sick. He was kind of like 'His Majesty.' Everybody respected him so much."
''I liked him right away''
Born in Afghanistan, the son of a brigadier general in the Afghan Army and the grandson, nephew and cousin of Afghanistan's last three kings, his family says, Ghafoor ran away from home when he was a teenager. He ran away from the servants he knew as a boy, to escape a life in which a wife would be chosen for him by his family. He would have had to attend military school, says Roy, who married Ghafoor in 1961 and divorced him in 1969.
Roy says Ghafoor was 13 when he snuck across the border to live with his grandparents in Pakistan, where Roy met Ghafoor years later in Lahore, a big city near the border with India.
Roy had moved to Lahore in about 1960 with her first husband - a professor of economics and business at Washington State University in Pullman - who landed a one-year teaching job at a university there. Ghafoor became his driver.
When Roy's marriage ended in divorce soon after that year in Pakistan, she arranged for Ghafoor, whom she had become fond of, to travel to the United States and her hometown of Warwick, R.I.
They were married at a mosque in Washington, D.C., making Ghafoor a U.S. citizen.
Roy wanted to live in the Northwest again, but not in Pullman. Good friends she had known there, Barre and Miiko Toelken, were by then