Where My Last Name Comes From

My grandfather was Chris Joseph Maya Sr., (born Issa Yousef Ma'ayeh). 


Born Jan. 1, 1910, he was a son of the late Yousef Salman and Gamra Giries Sunna Ma'ayeh, in Madaba, Jordan. At an early age after his mother's passing, his father moved him and his family to the city of Jerusalem. While there he was educated at St. George's School where he was one of the top students. 

He was employed during his early adult life at Barclay's Bank in Jerusalem. In 1938, he filed for immigration papers which, due to World War II, were delayed until 1948. On arrival of his papers he boarded a steam-liner for his 6-week journey for a dream, and new life - to become an American.

Upon arrival in the United States, he changed his last name to "Maya".  My family tell me that he did this as an attempt to deter persecution.  There you have it.  If you want to know the rest of my grandfather's story then read on. 


Once in the U.S. my grandfather searched for meaningful employment, eventually moving to southwest Virginia, with his cousins, Mike and Farid Salaita. In 1952, he established his own business in Clinchport, Va. In 1953, he hired a sales clerk named Mary Nell Roberts, whom he married in 1954.

In 1956 they had twin children, Chris Joseph Maya and Camellia Nell Maya.  After that time they relocated to Gate City, Va., to establish Chris Department Store, which is still today an icon in SW Virginia as it contains much history of the area and its culture.

My grandfather died in 2005 at the age of 96 while I was serving in the Marine Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  

Mark Maya

Mark Maya Photography, Durham, NC, 27707, United States

Mark Maya is a photographer and educator from Durham, NC.

Mark Maya is a wedding photographer and educator from Durham, NC.