Family hopes to unveil Lebanese heritage in ND with wedding dress donation

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 3:47 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - It’s been said, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

In this case, one man’s treasure was almost trash.

For more than a dozen years, Clarice Nassif Ransom has had boxes of her mother’s things in her basement. When her husband suggested they throw the boxes out, she had a nagging feeling she should look inside the boxes first.

What she found, and what she did with the contents of those boxes are what make this story good news.

“This is my mom’s wedding dress,” said Nassif Ransom.


Clarice Nassif Ransom had a piece of history she didn’t know existed, until one day, she and her husband decided to clean their basement.

“My husband and I were like, ‘oh well, we haven’t opened these boxes in 13 years maybe we ought to just take them to the garbage side. Then something inside said, ‘Stop. You got to look inside,’” she explained.

Inside one of the boxes was a garbage bag, and inside that, her mother’s wedding dress and veil.

“I never even saw the wedding dress as a child,” she said.

Her parents, Rita and Gabriel Nassif, were married July 12, 1957 at St. George’s Episcopal Memorial Church in Bismarck. Their wedding party was large and diverse.

On this day, many members of the wedding party gathered to reminisce and photograph the dress.

Joyce Allen Tello was a flower girl.

“I loved being a flower girl,” Allen Tello recalled.

“They included everyone, even my cousin who had a disability was right there, front and center and celebrated, and this is 1957. They were thoughtful people,” Nassif Ransom said.

They passed that thoughtfulness onto their children. Clarice and her brother LeRoy have donated their mom’s wedding gown to the State Historical Society.

“It’s a gift, we’re giving to our ancestors who came here,” she said.

Their ancestors came to North Dakota from Lebanon. Their story is mostly untold. They hope this dress can help start a conversation.

“It tells a part of North Dakota history that we don’t see very often, as far as like Lebanese people living here. We were we were very excited to have this one for our collection and very grateful for that gift,” said Elise Dukart, assistant registrar with the North Dakota Historical Society.

A gift that for years was something of a hidden treasure.

“We had no idea what was in the boxes,” said LeRoy Nassif.

Now, the treasure is out of the box and will be forever preserved, just as the story of the Lebanese in North Dakota will now be told and preserved as well.

As you can imagine, the Historical Society gets all kinds of donation offers. They don’t accept them all. A panel decides what to accept based on space available and an item’s connection to North Dakota’s history.

They’re pretty excited about this dress, as it will help tell the story of the Lebanese who immigrated here.

They’ll catalog the dress, clean and fix what they can and then put it in an acid free box and store it where researchers can access it.

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