Haas Mroue Memorial Scholarship Announcement

We’re delighted to announce the Haas Mroue Memorial Scholarship for the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference!

Given by the Haas Mroue Memorial Fund in memory of Haas Mroue, this scholarship is for a student to attend the 2011 Port Townsend Writers’ Conference.

Haas Mroue

Poet, travel writer, aviation enthusiast, culinary wizard, and friend-gatherer Haas Mroue died October 6th of a heart attack in Beirut, Lebanon. He was 41. A Port Townsend, Washington State, resident for nearly a decade, Haas had spent the spring and summer in Lebanon preparing the launch of a new airline magazine. He was to have returned to Port Townsend in October.

Though he was reared in a region of conflict, Mroue was an ambassador of peace. He spoke French and Arabic, and was a regular contributor to Frommer’s Travel Guides, Berlitz, and The Lonely Planet. He wrote the current edition of Frommer’s Memorable Walks In Paris. In fact, he spent most of his adult life boarding flights to such destinations as Bangkok, the Galapagos Islands, Abu Dhabi, and the French Riviera. During a recent stint as editor at Airways Magazine he hosted a gala banquet for international airline luminaries at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. He always attracted people who admired his travel-savvy elegance and border-erasing spirit.

Born Haseeb Haseeb Mroueh in Beirut in 1965, Haas was raised by his mother, Najwa Mounla Mroueh, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Haas’s father, Haseeb Hassan Mroueh, a professor at the American College in Beirut, died of cancer three months before his son was born.

Haas attended schools in Beirut, Bahrain, Amman and London, as well as the American College in Paris. After high school he moved permanently to the United States and attended UCLA where he received a B.A. in Film and Screenwriting. He later earned an MFA in Creative Writing at University of Colorado/Boulder where he wrote Beirut Seizures, a book of poems about his childhood during the occupation of Lebanon. The imagery is both intimate and universal: his mother’s friend Mary who disappeared; children in pajamas waiting for their mothers to come home; the making of tabouli and lemonade while violence rages. One poem reads, “Children and birds suffer most in war…children and birds are always running away.”

When Haas landed in Port Townsend for a writing residency at Centrum in 1998, he said he knew this place was home. He brought sophistication and festivity to many local venues from his astute advice on wines at the Wine Seller and delectable lunches at the Fountain Café, to his soft-spoken charm at myriad Port Townsend events. Ensconced in his beach cottage at Beckett Point, he clickety-clacked on his laptop to meet writing deadlines and prepared astonishing dinners for his friends—replete with spices only he could identify—before dashing off to catch another plane.

Those who knew Haas well were repeatedly impressed by his tolerance of people’s failings while affirming their strengths. His intuition for knowing people stemmed from a poet’s ability to embrace contradiction. In early October, for example, he wrote of his newfound relationship with Beirut: “The markets are overflowing with figs, grapes, avocados, and cactus pears. What a bountiful place. Fires are raging in the mountains. Sit-in and candle-light vigils downtown. Power cuts and water shortages and everything in between.”

That “in-between” place is where Haas lived, seizing paradox where others might take sides. And, after a lifetime of searching for a father he never knew, his season in Beirut among family and the landscape that spawned him seemed to have brought him full circle. Just hours before Haas’s swift and unexpected death, a friend received an email: “I have become my father’s son…something that has not happened before this trip. I am definitely my father’s son.” Several days later he was buried next to the man he’d yearned for his whole life.

Haas is survived by his mother Najwa Mounla Orloff and his stepfather Peter Orloff of England, as well as numerous cousins and relations. He is also survived by an immense family of friends who will sorely miss his wild and generous heart, his impossibly expressive eyes, his yogurt soup, and those radiant arrivals at the front door – his outstretched hand bearing the ever-present bottle of chilled champagne.

by Christine Hemp