larryshaben

Larry Shaben, in an undated photo from his years as an Alberta MLA, died Saturday at age 73. ((Courtesy of the Shaben family))

A public memorial service will be held Monday for former provincial cabinet minister and Edmonton community leader Larry Shaben.

Shaben died of cancer Saturday at age 73.

Shaben, who lived in High Prairie for many years, was first elected to the Alberta legislature in 1975 in the northern Alberta riding of Lesser Slave Lake.

He became a cabinet minister in 1979, making him the first Muslim in Canada to serve in that position.

When he ended his political career in 1989, Shaben turned his efforts to promoting a better understanding of religion and ending racism.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, compelled Shaben to help form the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities.

He is also remembered for surviving a plane crash in 1984 that claimed the lives of six people, including provincial NDP Leader Grant Notley.

Shaben embodied 'selfless service': niece

Friends and family remembered Shaben on Sunday as a man who put his community first.

"He really did embody selfless service,"  said his niece, Evelyn Hamdon. "He was a very, very large stone in the pond, his ripples were big and many and felt so profoundly by so many people."

"He is a huge loss for us and our community," said Khaild Tarrabain, president of the Canadian Islamic Centre.  "He is irreplaceable, irreplaceable.  He was our mentor."

Shaben is survived by his wife, Alma, and five adult children.

The public memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. local time at the Edmonton Islamic Academy.

With files from the Canadian Press