IN MEMORIAM (1952-2021)
Sorrowful And Untimely Passing
Our First and Last Meeting
Father ZAVEN ARZOUMANIAN, PhD
Great Loss, Great Consolation
The shocking news of Ara Aharonian’s sudden and untimely passing two weeks ago marked a great loss in the American Armenian community, particularly sorrowful for the Armenians in the West Coast, a loss for a long time. This great loss however is commensurate with a great life accomplished in dedication, concern, and utmost service: family, community, culture. Ara Aharonian personified all three with dignity, love, and perseverance, smile on his face and deep conviction towards his Armenian identity, the ADL political party, and cultural achievements. Ara was a humble and yet most influential member in the community, unyielding, pleasant, and an unselfish servant.
Since his early education his life radiated Armenian spirit all along, historic values, and valuable friendship filled with a rich legacy of literature and administrative activity. He exploited his time serving the ADL party, the Armenian Church, and the community at large. All complimenting each other comprise the true consolation at this most difficult time of bereavement beyond words and wishes, a standing and monumental comfort indeed with a wealthy and renewed legacy.
Our First and Last Meetings
Two weeks after Yeretsgin and I arrived in Pasadena, some fifteen years ago, after my forty years of service in the East Coast, an unknown person called me asking to meet him. It was Ara Aharonian. He said there was a Cultural Center in Pasadena where he wanted to take me. I was overwhelmed seeing the Tekeyan Center, where we frequently went for cultural activities ever since. At one point Ara invited me to address the membership. He was both an author of books and an active member in the Center’s administration. His most important book became known as “Along the Path of the Grateful,” including last century’s leading ADL members and their legacies, contributing to the recent Armenian history before and after World War I. The series were the follow-ups of larger volumes with similar content written by Vatche Semerjian and Hagop Vartivarian published in recent years. In his monumental work Ara Aharonian rightfully joins his Grateful Predecessors most honorably.
Adana’s Initial ADL Chapter
As I was reading Aharonian’s recent pages of the “Grateful,” to his credit I saw attached an ancient group picture of a local ADL chapter with no additional names of persons, date or location. I called him if he could find any data identifying the photo. He called me back telling me there was no identification. Then I told Ara that most probably the group picture represented the 1920 local chapter of the Armenian Democratic Liberal (ADL) party of Adana in Cilicia, based on my recollection of what my father had told his three sons. He had told us very briefly and with emotion about the deportation of the Armenians in 1915, when his mother 42 years old, his two younger sisters and himself all in their teens, were exiled from their hometown Everek to Cilicia and beyond.
The clue to Ara Aharonian’s group picture dawned on me remembering my father telling us they were welcomed in Cilicia by the local chapter of the ADL and that he wanted to join the Ramgavar Party. He had kept the ID card signed and dated by Levon Ajemian, which is presently with us. Those deported from Cilicia had returned temporarily and my father was saying there was hope that they could settle in Adana. Catholicos Sahak II Khabayan of Cilicia was in Adana with his two assisting Bishops.
Looking closer to the photo I recognized two from among the twenty members, Levon Ajemian, later our teacher at the Kaloustian Elementary School in Cairo, and my father, the youngest, sitting on the floor with another member. I called Ara, and regretfully that was our last conversation only a month ago, to tell him about the possible identification of the picture. He was amazed with some hesitation. All credit goes to our beloved Ara Aharonian who discovered from the archives this ancient picture, 100 years old, to verify the ADL Party’s initiation in Cilicia noting an isolated and yet a significant historical event. I was happy to furnish what I knew from my father’s eyewitness account.
All indications attest to Ara Aharonian as an intellectual and an administrator. He was an unassuming person, humble and yet outspoken in impeccable western Armenian, straightforward with disciplined convictions in what he said and did. Humility and service turned him the real person Ara was, elevating himself silently and making his followers elevate loudly. He was an author of several books, very timely and documented, including a book on the Artsakh Karabagh Republic, surrendered mostly to Azerbaijan unfortunately, following the recent war between Azerbaijan and Artsakh.
Given all caring qualities Ara displayed in life around his family, wife, children, grandchildren, and the community, there cannot be departure, but only a distance while remaining always with his loved ones, his friends and all those who worked with him under his constant smile and affection. May he rest in peace and may the Holy Spirit comfort his lovely family.