Saed Tayyara: Living the American dream
Written in cooperation with the Museum of Northwest Colorado and Craig Daily Press
In many ways, Saed Tayyara epitomized the American dream - not of monetary wealth but the wealth that comes from dedication and the love of freedom.
Born in Tartous, Syria, on Feb. 8, 1941, Saed was one of nine children born to his farmer parents Muhammad and Badrel Tayyara.
"I was born and raised on a family farm in Syria, where I learned how to be self-reliant and a rugged individualist:We learned to work together as a team to accomplish our goals" (Craig Daily Press, April 1992).
The young boy loved to learn and walked several miles to attend a local school. "At an early age, I fell in love with America and its rights and freedoms through the study of my text books (Daily Press, April 1992).
At the age of 15, Tayyara was tortured, beaten and jailed because he spoke out against the government. He was denied the right to vote when he turned 18, and his life was threatened because he would not vote as he was ordered.
He came to the United States in 1963 as a college student. He wanted to study government so that he could take the knowledge back to his country to try to bring about change for the better. He supported himself by working full-time in addition to attending classes.
He came to Colorado's Yampa Valley in 1965 and studied under the muse of Lucille Bogue, a forward-thinking woman determined to see a college in the area west of the Rocky Mountains. She invited international students into her home and became a surrogate mother to them. Tayyara studied on an academic and sports scholarship at the fledgling Yampa Valley College (later renamed Colorado Mountain College). After he graduated, he taught a class to pay back what had been given him.
One of the proudest days of his life came June 22, 1972, when he became an American citizen in Denver.
After Tayyara graduated from college, he stayed in the Yampa Valley, opening a restaurant in the small town of Hayden. In 1975, he moved 20 miles down the valley to Craig to open the region's first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. He quickly gained a reputation for hiring teens and teaching them good work ethics and business sense. He found a place to call home and threw himself into his adopted community.
In 1979, he took his first seat as city councilman of Craig and served on the council until 1983.
Tayyara stuck with his city when a major economic slump hit the area in the mid-1980s. Hundreds of people packed up and left in the middle of the night, but he held firm and did what it took to get through the rough times.
He took a job nearly 50 miles away, working in a restaurant that catered to the many skiers who flocked to the Steamboat Springs resort. When the snows melted, he began working as a coal miner and sharing his passion for the American freedoms with everyone he came in contact with.
In 1989, Tayyara felt that his experiences would be of value to his neighbors in Craig and he returned to the City Council, eventually serving several terms as mayor. He also served several years as a Moffat County Commissioner, working with the oil and gas industry, ranchers, farmers and the tourism trade to enhance the diversity of the area he claimed as home.
He served on several boards that help to determine the direction of critical matters including energy production, water and population. He was honored as Craig's Man of the Year in 1993 by the Craig Daily Press.
In addition to his many political and social commitments, he was a devoted and doting grandfather.
In 2006, Tayyara established the Lucile Bogue/Saed Tayyara scholarship in honor of the woman who gave him a good start in America. The scholarship is given annually to a student at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
When he met Lucile Bogue at Yampa Valley College, he told her, "All I want is a chance to make a difference. Trust me, you'll be proud of it" (Daily Press, April 1992).
Tayyara continued to make a difference in his part of the world for decades and was constantly encouraging those around him to do the same. He frequently told people, "I appreciate you."
When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, he told his constituents that he didn't want pity. He had a battle to fight, and he wanted to do it out of the public eye. On Nov. 29, 2008, he lost that fight, still concerned about his community and the people around him.
The night before he died, he was given the Daughters of the American Revolution Americanism Award for his leadership, patriotism, trustworthiness and service. As he held the medal in his shaking hand, he said, "I appreciate you."
The feeling was mutual.