The former Somali ambassador to the United States, a long-time Columbus resident and advocate for refugees and resettlement efforts, died this week.

Abdikarim Ali Omar, 70, of Westerville, died Tuesday night of natural causes, according to his family. and community leaders.

Omar was the last Somali ambassador to the United States before the fall of the government and civil war in 1991.

“He was a great leader to the Somali community. He was very kind, so helpful to the newcomers,” said Abdi Hakim, a case worker for the Community Refugee and Immigration Services.

Omar joined the Somali foreign ministry in 1975, trained as a finance clerk. He came to the United States in 1978, transferring to the Somali foreign embassy in Washington D.C.

He graduated from George Washington University in 1984 with a degree in political science and economics, said Ahmed Hussein, a friend and business partner.

Omar most-recently was CEO of Vanguard Home Health Care, until his retirement in 2018.

“He was well known in Somalia, a community leader in Columbus and a very social guy, very humble, very helpful,” said Hussein.

“He was the backbone of our family, a gentleman, a happy person. He always was involved with Somalia. He wanted the country to bring back the pride of Somalia,” said his sister, Maryam Ali Omar.

Omar was Somali ambassador to Canada for one year before he was appointed as ambassador to the United States, a post he held until 1991. He moved to Columbus in 1996, taking a job in the financial sector.

Omar was married to Deka Mohamed Siad, daughter of former Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre, who held the post from 1969 to 1991. The couple have six grown children, said Hussein.

A funeral was held Wednesday at the  Ibnu Taymiyah Masjid and Islamic Center.