By Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Marianna Kay Siblani, a former nurse and executive editor of the Dearborn-based Arab American News who advocated for Arab and Muslim causes, died Tuesday at her mother’s home in Warren after battling breast cancer. She was 64 and previously lived in Dearborn Heights.
“She’s always been a fighter,” said Osama Siblani, her ex-husband and publisher of the Arab American News. “She fought very hard — for her health, her family, for the community.”
Ms. Siblani was not of Arab descent and had no family ties to the Muslim community. But as an adult, she became “amazed by the Middle East, its history, very attracted to the culture, the food, the music,” said her former husband, to whom she was married from 1992 to 1995.
She was born Marianna Kendall in Detroit and worked at St. John Hospital in Detroit as a nurse, Siblani said.
In 1984, she helped him when he started the Arab American News, which today is the biggest Arab-American newspaper in Michigan and one of the biggest in the U.S. The early years were challenging, but she worked long, hard hours to keep it going, Siblani recalled.
Ms. Siblani was active in Arab-American and Muslim issues. She traveled around the Middle East with Siblani, and was at his side when he interviewed leaders such as Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
She set up Oasis Communications in the early 1990s, serving as a consultant on health care issues related to Muslim-American communities. She also worked at the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, helping it set up in 2000.
In 1987, Ms. Siblani was hit by a drunken driver while walking in Dearborn and suffered a collapsed lung. She later was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which was removed. She developed breast cancer about two years ago.
“I always depended on her,” Siblani said. “I’ve known Kay for 36 years. … I don’t know who I’m going to call on now for advice.”
Ms. Siblani is survived by her mother, Anna Leota Kendall; daughter Michelle Marshall; brothers Kenny and Keith Kendall; sister Cathy Jones, and three grandchildren.
Visitation is 2-8 p.m. Saturday and 1-8 p.m. Sunday at Verheyden Funeral Home, 28499 Schoenherr Road, Warren. The funeral is set for 10 a.m. Monday at the same location. Burial will be in Christian Memorial Cemetery in Rochester Hills.
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