A son he never knew: Steve Jobs’ father

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He has told of his deep sorrow at his son’s death.

And Steve Job’s biological father holds a bit of his son’s legacy as he works at his casino.

Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, whogave his son up for adoption and never got to meet him,said he was not shocked by the news of Jobs’s death, but desperately wanted to meet him before he passed away.

The sighting of Jandali happened the same day as Mr. Jobs’ death certificate was released, stating that the Apple founder died due to respiratory arrest caused by pancreatic cancer.

The certificate, released by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, said Jobs had a ‘metastatic pancreas neuroendocrine tumour’ and there would not be an autopsy.The death certificate also states that the Apple co-founder had the cancer for eight years before his death, adding it was first diagnosed in 2004.

Jandali only learned that Jobs was his son one year later in 2005.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Abdulfattah Jandali said he found out about his son’s death last Wednesday.

Periodically in the past year, Jandali would shoot off an email toSteve Jobs, the son he never met. They were simple notes such as “Happy Birthday” or “I hope your health is improving.”

It’s unclear if Jobs ever wrote back. A source close to Jobs’s family denied while Jandali insists he did receive two short replies.The last one arrived six weeks before Jobs’s death, was a simple “Thank you”.

For the casino executive, aside from the iPhone 4 he carries, his story of the emails is pretty much all he has of a son who went on to co-found AppleInc. and grew into one of the world’s most famous businessmen.

Syria-born Jandali is 80-years-old and general manager of the Boomtown casino in the barren hills outside Reno, Nevada. He presides over a staff of around 450 casino workers and is praised by his colleagues for his quiet leadership style and being marketing savvy. Walking the floor on Friday, he was stopped by an employee who thanked him for reinstalling $5 dollar slot machines. Jandali shook his hand, and then sat down at the casino’s Chinese noodle joint to eat the salmon special.

“I can’t take credit for my children’s success,” Jandali, also nicknamed John, said. He is also the father of celebrated novelist Mona Simpson. Steve Jobs was put up for adoption as a baby. Jandali said he had no contact with him and also has a strained relationship with his daughter.

Jandali’s close friends say the estrangement with his children has been a source of great sadness over the years. He kept the fact of his famous offspring private from even those closest to him for fear of being perceived as someone seeking to ride their coattails.

“To me it felt like in his whole life, this (estrangement) is something he regretted and he wished he made different decisions or wished there was a different result,” said Keith Henson, general manager of L’Auberge Lake Charles, a casino in Louisiana. Henson said he found out only three years ago that Jandali had fathered Steve Jobs. It came as a shock to Keith Henson who was mentored by ‘John’ Jandali at Boomtown and was the best man at his third wedding.

The decline in Jobs’s health attracted the attention of Jandali, which he found very uncomfortable. The Syria-born executive agreed to be interviewed at the casino’s noodle restaurant, only after saying he didn’t think his story was interesting enough to warrant the attention.

With crinkled eyes and white hair surrounding a balding head, Jandali has a physical resemblance with his son. A side table in his office prominently features a framed publicity shot of Mona Simpson that Jandali downloaded from the Internet.

He said he learned of Jobs’s death on Wednesday at the office, when a stranger called to offer condolences. He quickly hung up the phone.”It was not a shock,” Jandali insisted. “Basically all you feel is sadness.”

Mr. Jandali only learned around 2005 that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was his biological son. He doesn’t remember how he heard, but he said the news was “a major shock.”

After that, Jandali began watching online videos of Steve Jobs’s famous keynote speeches launching Apple products. He emailed a few times in the past year after becoming aware of his son’s failing health.

“I don’t know why I emailed,” Jobs’ biological father said. “I guess because I felt bad when I heard about the health situation. He had his life and I had my life, and we were not in contact. If I talked to him, I don’t know what I would have said to him.”

After hearing of Jobs’s death, Jandali called his daughter who didn’t respond. He stared at pictures of Jobs in his 20s and 30s.

“That was exactly how I looked,” he said.

Jandali added he also read the famous speech last week that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005 in which the Apple chief reflected on life and death and told the story of his adoption. “My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates,” Jobs said in the speech.

Steve Jobs, who was born in San Francisco in 1955, said in the speech that in fact his birth mother finally agreed that he be adopted by Paul Jobs, a high-school dropout who became a machinist, and Clara Jobs, who never graduated from college. He grew up near San Francisco. While Jobs acknowledged he had a relationship with his birth mother and sister, he didn’t publicly discuss about Jandali, his biological father.

People who know Jandali say he shares the intellectual capacity and instinct for understanding consumer desires as his son, albeit in a different context. Yet unlike Steve Jobs, a showman famous for wowing crowds with new products, Jandali prefers to remain in the background.

“He’s a great influence on those around him,” said Anthony Sanfilippo, chief executive of Pinnacle Entertainment Inc., which owns Boomtown. Sanfilippo promoted Jandali to general manager of the casino from head of hospitality around a year ago. “He is really the opposite of a showman because he would always put the light on others to take the stage. He understands what guests like and what they are willing to pay for.”

Jandali said he was never very technologically savvy. But he does consider himself an early adopter. His first and only computers have been Apple products – he has both a laptop and a desktop at home – and has purchased every iPhone model as soon as it was launched. He also owns an iPad and maintains both Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“You have to use all the tools available to you,” he said. “It’s stupid not to.”

John Jandali’s story

Abdulfattah Jandali said he was born and raised in Syria’s third largest city of Homs. He came from a prominent family that owned villages and vast amounts of land outside the city, where workers tended in wheat and cotton fields.

His father sought good education for his three sons, of which ‘John’ is the youngest. Jandali planned to become a diplomat in Syria. He came to the US in 1952 and got enrolled a year later to get his PhD in political science at the University of Wisconsin. His emphasis was on how Middle Eastern countries could emerge from colonialism. University records show he was awarded his doctorate in 1956 with a dissertation entitled “United Nations Efforts to Set Standards for National Independence.”

While a student in Madison, he became romantically involved with Joanne Schieble, a graduate student in speech therapy from Green Bay. Schieble, now known as Joanne Simpson, became pregnant in 1954 but her father didn’t approve of the relationship.

Joanne Schieble went to San Francisco for a few months to give birth to her son who was later put up for adoption.

She returned to Madison and married Abdulfattah Jandali soon after her father died. After he graduated they moved to Syria to pursue his diplomatic dreams but political upheavals in the country disrupted his plans of becoming a diplomat. Jandali says, he managed an oil refinery instead. His unhappy wife moved back to Green Bay where she gave birth to their second child, Mona.

Jandali also returned to the US and began teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There, and later at other universities, he didn’t publish beyond a few articles in Arab-language newspapers. John Coleman, the current chair of the political-science department, says the University of Wisconsin does not have a record of Jandali being employed as professor but he might have taught classes.

A few years later Jandali and Schieble divorced. She remarried to become Joanne Simpson. According to a person close to the family,Jandali wasn’t involved in his daughter’s life when she was growing up. “He abandoned the family” and was “for the most part unreachable,” the source added.

As an adult, Steve Jobs found and contacted Joanne Simpson and forged a relationship with her, as well as with Mona. Joanne Simpson couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mona Simpson penned a novel in 1993. Titled “The Lost Father,” it is a story about a protagonist searching for a father she never knew.Jandali read the book and recognised himself as the father character in Simpson’s novel.

“The way I look at it, it’s her way of venting anger, and it’s OK,” Jandali said. “She’s entitled to that. It’s the price to pay for not being there for your child when you’re a father. Even though I don’t see her, I love her dearly.”

According to the University of Wisconsin, where he got his PhD, Mr. Jandali was affiliated with a number of universities around the country. Around 1968, he said, he taught in the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno. However, his time there was brief and he left in 1970. By that point he already owned a restaurant in Reno, where he would sometimes treat faculty members, recalled Joe Crowley, a former Reno colleague who went on to become president of the university.

Jandali married a woman who worked in real estate and had grown up children. He bought a bankrupt French restaurant in Reno and later sold it for a profit, before joining a major casino in Las Vegas to run a restaurant. He became head of food and beverage in 1999 for Boomtown.

Not long after that, Boomtown and other Reno casinos faced the loss of out-of-town customers from California to Indian casinos closer to their homes. Turning to the locals as a source of income, Mr. Jandali in 2000 pushed the casino to introduce a lobster buffetwhich drew thousands of customers on the weekends. “People thought I was crazy when I introduced that,” he said. “They thought we would lose money. But it attracted a lot of people.” Mr. Hansen, Jandali’s former colleague, said the move was “one of the most successful promotions” for a casino in the region.

Widowed in 2006, Jandali remarried and now lives on a cul-de-sac in a Reno suburban community. He constantly reads books, usually on his iPad, and has outlined several fiction and nonfiction books hoping to finish writing when he retires.

After finishing his lunch, Jandali walked out of the Chinese restaurant, past tables printed with silhouettes of gun-slinging cowboys and video poker machines. As he left,Jandali waved his iPhone and said: “They produce the best. Steve Jobs was a genius.”

Sources: DailyMail, WSJ

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