Sylvia Mary Sophiea

April 20, 1922 - November 21, 2013
Sylvia Sophiea thumbnail
Sunset View Mortuary Light a candle Light a candle


Sylvia Mary Sophiea, 91, passed away Thursday, November 21, 2013, in her Berkeley, California home with her family by her side. Sylvia, daughter of Elias Abourezk and Rose Samra, was born April 20, 1922, in Gregory, South Dakota. After her father’s early death, she was raised in Flint, Michigan, by her mother and stepfather, Anton Gantos. She married Frank Sophiea on November 25, 1945 and cherished 53 wonderful years with him.

Sylvia was highly respected and influential in the Flint community and beyond, serving tirelessly for 80 years as a community leader, activist, and organizer. She was an active member of the Arab American Heritage Council, a volunteer for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a board member of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and choir director of St. George Orthodox Church for 30 years. As a social worker/immigration specialist and finally executive director at the International Institute in Flint, she had a huge impact on the quality of life for immigrants of Flint and the neighboring communities.

After Frank died, she spent the final years of her life contented in Berkeley, California, where she was beloved by her neighbors and the grandmother of her community. She was a remarkable woman who loved her family, her church, her community, and her music.

She is survived by four children and their spouses: Dale Sophiea and wife, Elania Nanopoulos; Sylvia Elaine Reeves and husband, Doug; Cynthia Sophiea and husband, Jeff Rodman; Michele Newsham and husband, Pat. She is also survived by grandchildren Nico Sophiea, Katherine Reeves, Rebecca Rodman, Jessica VanderPloeg, Eiren Newsham, and Karolyn Newsham; great-grandchildren Sadie, Leit, Oliver, and Frances; and dear niece Sylvia Gantous. She leaves behind many cherished friends and cousins.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial contributions be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or to a local hospice agency. The funeral will be held Tuesday, November 26th at 1:00 PM at Sunset View Cemetery, 101 Colusa Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530.

Please be sure to provide our contact information at time of donation so we are notified of your contribution in Sylvia’s memory. For email notification: sylviasmemory@gmail.com; for mail notification: Michele Newsham, 42064 Fremont Preserve Square, Stone Ridge, VA 20105

Leave a Condolence

Service Schedule

Service Information

Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Time: 1:00 pm

Sunset View Cemetery Association


101 Colusa Avenue, El Cerrito, CA, 94530


Life Event Timeline

Help tell the story of Sylvia by contributing to the Life Event Timeline. Upload the photo of an event...

Post an Event

Timeline for Sylvia Sophiea

Born: April 20, 1922
Died: November 21, 2013

Condolences for Sylvia Sophiea

Sunset View Mortuary

Our sincere condolences.

The staff of Sunset View Mortuary.


Yvonne Dobrowolski posted on 12/3/13

Dearest cousins, Nadia, Emily, and myself would like you to know that we loved your mother very much and are sad for your loss. She was a woman of strength and grace. We are thinking of you. Love


walid Michel Abu-samra posted on 11/26/13

As I am attempting to writSe of what I remember of my sweet sweet Sylvia, I can't help focusing on that angelic but mischievous photograph. For forty years, I have, off and on, had great conversations With Sylvia, filled with her laughter and wit, and she would always used words that tugged at your heart, like "ya Habibi", "Ya Yooni", "Ya Albee", So, right back at you, Couz!!1, You always made my day!!!!


Tina Nickola Bowles posted on 11/25/13

I have many wonderful memories of Sylvia. She was a very good friend of my mother and father Nick and Thelma Nickola. I recall she came to our house and stayed with us when my younger brother Michael was dying. She wouldn't leave us kids alone. She was a wonderful person! May God give you all strength!


Cindy Shahin Rhinehart posted on 11/25/13

What wonderful memories I have of your mom. She always had a smile on her face and made everyone feel so loved!! Thank you for sharing her with all of us. May she rest in peace and enjoy being with Frank again. Love, Cindy


Debbie Gantos and Lucas Arnold posted on 11/26/13

We both send our love to your family today. We are thinking of you and will always remember what a special, caring and loving human being Sylvia Sophiea was.