Meridian Star

Local News

December 31, 2012

Star of The Week: Dewey Sadka Sr.

MERIDIAN —     From humble beginnings as the son of Lebanese immigrants, Dewey Grant Sadka Sr. has lived the American dream, but it was not without hard work and sacrifices.

    Born on Dec. 18, 1915, Sadka just recently celebrated his 97th birthday and the long-time Meridian real estate broker still goes into his downtown office regularly. He is semi-retired, but, as he says, “If someone wants my help, I’ll help them.”

    The youngest, Sadka lived in an apartment above his father’s grocery store on the corner of 6th and 17th streets with his sister and three brothers. After his mother died in the great flu pandemic of 1918, his sister took care of him. Sadka said his mother’s death is his first clear memory.

    “My earliest memory is when I was three years old and I climbed over my mother’s coffin and they made me get down,” Sadka said. “I remember being taken away from my mother.”

    One event which could have turned tragic for his family but did not, happened in front of his father’s store one day.

    “I was six, seven years old and some Gypsies put me in a wagon and my brother saw it,” Sadka said. “He went in to tell them that the Gypsies had me. He ran down there and got me out. I wasn’t scared because I didn’t know what was going on.”

    Sadka was brought up to work hard and despite living through the Great

Depression, which ended his father’s grocery store, he has fond memories of growing up. When he was young, streets in Meridian were mostly unpaved and there was still horse and wagon traffic.

    As a boy, he delivered groceries for his dad and he threw a paper route for The Meridian Star, earning $1 a week.

    “That dollar went a long way,” he said. “You could buy a hamburger for a nickel and a Coke for a nickel. You could go swimming for 10 cents. That’s how I spent my Sundays. As a kid I had to make my own way. It was the Great Depression.”

    He and his brothers were involved in Boy Scouts of America, earning Eagle Scout badges.

    Sadka was still a teenager when his father died in 1931, just a year after the grocery store closed. His sister opened a sandwich shop and he helped her in the store until he finished high school.

    In 1933, according to a history compiled by Sadka’s family, he lied about his age and joined the National Guard. A few years later, he left the Guard and entered the Navy as a pilot. He later left to become a flight instructor with Southern Airways and rejoined the military during World War II as a service pilot. He did not see combat, but he recalled losing several friends during the war.

    “There’s a many a person I knew who died,” Sadka said. “The flying game wasn’t very good. There was a high ratio of accidents, and deaths. I knew some mighty good boys who got killed.”

    In 1945 he married Louise Moses of Vicksburg and later that year, when the war in Europe ended, Sadka left the military and headed home to Meridian with his new bride. He started working in the family sandwich shop again, and a year later he sold his first piece of real estate.

    He actually credits the landlord who owned the property they rented for the sandwich shop as his motivation for getting into real estate.

    “He made me mad. Every month he would go up on my rent. He had a tendency to go up about five dollars a month,” Sadka said. “Finally one day I looked up and said, ‘I’m paying this man $150 a month and that was when a dollar was a dollar.”

    This was in the late 1940s, he said. So he bought a piece of property to build a new sandwich shop on. The property owner allowed him to buy it on credit. He cleared an old house off the property and then one day he was approached by a man who wanted to rent the lot for parking.

    He didn’t want to, but the man offered him $100 a month, so he agreed. Several months later, the renter offered to buy the property, offering him enough that it was a $5,000 profit.

    He and his brother Durham talked about it.

    “I said, ‘You know here we have been working our rear-ends off and we don’t even have $1,000 in the bank and this fellow is offering us a $5,000 profit. Brother we better sell it.’”

    Sadka’s brother said ‘No, we’re going to buy some more if they’ll sell it to us on credit.’”

    Sadka laughed, remembering.They bought two more pieces of property on that block and the brothers’ real estate business was born.

    His wife, who had worked for the Social Security Administration, eventually joined the business and at one time they had a staff of five people selling real estate. Later they changed to commercial real estate only.

    There were tough lessons too.

    In the early years, while Mrs. Sadka was still working for Social Security, her boss visited the real estate office and asked if Social Security could rent a new building Sadka was constructing. They agreed on a price of $250 a month, but Sadka would be responsible for supplying janitorial services and supplies.

    “I didn’t know any better, so I signed a five-year lease,” Sadka said. “I lost my rear-end.”

    When the agreement started they had just a few employees at Social Security, but later the staff grew. That made Sadka’s cost go up. When the time came for property owners to submit bids to Social Security for a new lease, a couple of the bidders actually asked Sadka what he was going to bid. He played along with one of the property-owners.

    “I said, ‘If you won’t tell nobody, I’ll tell you what I’m going to bid,” Sadka said, chuckling as he recalled. “I’m going to bid $250. He bid $250. Of course he got it because I didn’t bid.”

    Lesson learned.

    “It was good thing for me because I loved it,” Sadka said of the real estate business.

    The Sadkas had four children, Mary Ann, Dewey Jr., David, and Sharon. Mrs. Sadka died in 2003.

    He modestly credits his wife and brother for much of his success.

    “I was surrounded by smart people. Not me, I wasn’t smart, he said.

    Sadka said he’s never seen anything like the hit the real estate market took a few years ago, but he is optimistic.

    “I’d say it’s still terrible. I think we can come out of it if we get those people together. I hope and pray we do. We have a great country,” Sadka said. “We have a lot of good principles. Capitalism will work. You’ve got a few bad people in it, but that’s to be expected. Things are always going to be good if you have competition. You’ve always had someone who wants to do business. That’s what has carried this country forward.”

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