HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Jameel Abed, the owner of a popular bakery and deli in Henrico County, has died from COVID-19. According to family members, Jameel was fully vaccinated but was also immunocompromised and his body couldn’t fight anymore.
As they continue to mourn the loss of their loved one, they want others to remember him as a “pillar of the community” who brought his Palestinian roots to Virginia.
Tucked back on Quioccasin Road is Mediterranean Bakery & Deli. It’s a cultural gem in Henrico that showcases Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. The decades-old business started as a bakery where Jameel and his wife Saba Abed would make pita bread. In the last thirty-five years, the business has expanded and become a staple in the metro Richmond area.
Saba and Jameel have been married for 51 years. She says the two met in Palestine when she was 19 and he was 20. Right after their marriage, the couple embarked on their business together and had three children, whom Jameel now leaves behind.
“It was devastating and heartbreaking,” Saba Abed cried. “He fought till the end and tried to get better.”
Jameel, a founding member of the Islamic Center of Virginia, died from COVID-19 on Aug. 10, just days before his 71st birthday. Abed says she and Jameel were vaccinated, yet both contracted the virus over the Fourth of July weekend. Abed recovered, but it was a fatal diagnosis for her husband.
“It broke my heart,” Abed sobbed. “Just before they put the ventilator on, he called me and said once they put it on I won’t be able to speak and I want you to forgive me. I asked him to forgive me as well and we said we love each other. That’s the last thing.”
Crying as she spoke to 8News, Abed’s heart was shattered. She shared that Jameel was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and had a lung transplant in 2019. The father of three made a full recovery, but his immune system was weakened. Abed said after testing positive for COVID, Jameel was airlifted from Chippenham Hospital to a facility in Northern Virginia.
Abed and their three sons said goodbye through a screen on Zoom while Jameel lay sedated in a hospital bed.
Jameel’s son, Bassam, worked side-by-side with his father since 2002 and said he takes comfort in the legacy he leaves behind. Bassam called his father a pillar of the Arab community in Richmond.
“The emotions are immense, but when your time is called you have to be ready to go,” Bassam said. “He did a lot with the community and activism, really trying to bring the Arab and Muslim community together.”
Leading by his Muslim faith, Jameel helped refugees acclimate to the United States, worked for religious understanding — especially during the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict — as he fundraises for children in Gaza and fought against Arab discrimination. Jameel would also educate others about his culture, having discussions with customers to create healthy discussion about the world and politics.
“Most of the people that would walk through the front door, he would know them by first name,” Bassam said. “That was really the difference. He paid attention to each person and he always made an effort to help the people that were in need.”
The Abed family says they are overwhelmed and grateful by the outpouring of support they’ve received from the community and their valued customers. During the interview with 8News several customers came into the store hugging Abed and offering their condolences to the family.
Bassam told 8News his father worked closely with Senator Tim Kaine on social justice issues, religious dedication and more. He says Kaine has reached out to them since the sudden passing and together they’re planning a public memorial that will take place in the near future.