Mohammad Hobbi slices chicken Monday while working with Loretta Reynolds in the kitchen of the Iraqi Kabab Market in Waterville. The market reopened Monday after temporarily closing following the Sept. 1 death of owner Akram Mohammad in a motorcycle wreck near the market on College Avenue. Hobbi is Mohammad’s father-in-law. Rosol Hobbi, the wife of Mohammad, was also at the market but asked not to be photographed as she mourns the death of her husband. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Rosol Hobbi stood at the counter of her business, Iraqi Kabab Market, her dark eyes fixed on the road outside the window.

It’s hard for her to comprehend that her husband, Akram “AJ” Mohammad, who was killed in a motorcycle crash 11 days earlier, will never walk through the door again.

“I think it’s a dream,” she said Monday. “Every moment, I think it’s not real. It’s a dream. Someone will come and wake me up.”

Hobbi, 24, was one of the first people on the scene of her husband’s crash, which occurred at about 10 a.m. just north of Hazelwood Avenue on Sept. 1 when the motorcycle he was riding went out of control, crossed the center line on College Avenue and collided with a Kennebec Valley Community Action Program transportation van, police said at the time.

Hobbi had driven her boys, Mahdile, 6, and Wissam, 2, to her parents’ home in Winslow earlier that morning, as her sister watches them before Mahdile goes to school. Then she drove to the Waterville market, which she and her husband had opened Aug. 24, but he was not there. Her employee, Loretta Reynolds, said he did not show up.

Hobbi had just passed the crash, 2/10 of a mile from the market, not knowing he was involved.


“I was the first person who saw him,” she said. “I came to the market. I asked Loretta, did AJ come here? She said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘He should be here, like, 20 minutes before me. I saw the accident. I called him, and he did not answer.”

She had a terrible feeling. She drove to the crash scene again and learned her husband had been killed.

The soft-spoken Hobbi paused as she told the story, remembering.

“It’s hard,” she said, but continued.

Rosol Hobbi reopened the Iraqi Kabab Market on Monday following the Sept. 1 death of her husband, Akram Mohammad, in a traffic collision. Hobbi said she initially thought she’d be unable to reopen but the community rallied to support her and encouraged her to open its doors once again. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“The police said it was windy Sept. 1 and his hat fall off and he turned his face to see where his hat went and he lost control on the motorcycle,” she said.

Speculation that it was a new motorcycle and that Mohammad was unfamiliar with it are not true, she said.


“He had it a long time, five or six months,” Hobbi said. “The police say he lost his control and he was speeding.”

The next few days after the crash were a blur.

Hobbi stayed at her parents’ home, where her husband’s body was taken before it was flown to his native home, Iraq. People came from the community, and from George J. Mitchell School, which Mahdile attends, to pay their respects. They expressed condolences. They were sympathetic, helpful.

“Everybody was caring,” Hobbi said. “Everybody came to my parents’ home and say ‘bye’ to AJ before they took him to the airport. Lots of people.”

Her littlest child doesn’t understand what has happened. Mahdile understands more.

“He asked a couple of times,” Hobbi said. “And when he saw they brought his Dad to my parents’ home to pray over him, he asked, ‘What’s in the box?’ He keeps saying, ‘We have to go to the store and see Dad.’ I feel like he knows his Dad is not going to come back, but he doesn’t understand what ‘dead’ means. He said, ‘Is my Dad troubled?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He saw his phone. It is broken and he said, ‘So my Dad is troubled. He’s not going to come back.'”


Hobbi was so anguished she could not bear to return to the home she shared with her husband and children in Waterville, so they stayed with her family in Winslow until Sunday night, when they drove to her Waterville home and stayed overnight together to make things easier.

Her father, Mohammad Hobbi, and her brother, also named Mohammad Hobbi, were at the market Monday, helping as she reopened the store. Reynolds was there, too.

Making the decision to reopen was difficult, as Rosol Hobbi thought she could not do it alone, especially with two young children to raise. But her family, and the community, rallied around her, she said.

“Everybody want to help,” she said. “I told them I cannot open that store again. But they say, ‘We will help you. You must open.'”

Reynolds said she plans to remain at the market and deli, where Rosol Hobbi is teaching her how to cook Arabic food.

“She’s amazing,” Reynolds said. “You could not ask for a better boss. She’s kind. She’s funny. She’s shy, but she needs to come out of it. I’ll be here for whatever she needs. I won’t leave her side.”


The market opened Monday and the deli will open Tuesday. Both will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Hobbi.

She said her husband poured his heart into the business, which is immaculate, brightly colored in red and white, and stocks all sorts of Arabic groceries, sweets and gifts. Food in the deli is cooked to order and customers can buy meals ready for the oven.

“Everywhere, you see his memory here,” Hobbi said.

She drives to work now, but takes the long way around, so she doesn’t have to pass the crash site, south of the market.

Married since 2015, she and Mohammad met in Arizona and moved to Augusta before moving to Waterville about three years ago, she said.

He was so happy to open the market, he wouldn’t let customers pay for everything at first, she said.

“The first six days, he sold half of the store for free,” she said.

Keeping it open is a way to honor his dream, and provide for her children, she said.

“That’s why I’m going to continue. I’m not going to close it.”

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