Eulogy for Hagop Gabrielian

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (E.)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Chris Zakian
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

February 8, 2005


The Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was deeply
saddened by the recent passing of Mr. Hagop Gabrielian, of Geneva,
Switzerland. What follows is the text of the eulogy delivered by
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the Diocesan Primate, during the funeral
service for Mr. Gabrielian at Geneva’s St. Hagop Armenian Church on
Friday, February 4, 2005. Also in attendance at the service were Bishop
Norvan Zakarian, of Lyon, France, and Bishop Vicken Aykazian, of
Washington, D.C.

* * *


“Verily, I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and
dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much
fruit. Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their
life in the world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 24:25)

These words of our Lord, related by the evangelist St. John, hold a
special meaning for us today, as we gather to pay our final respects to
Hagop Gabrielian. Mr. Gabrielian’s life was indeed like that grain of
wheat, which falls to the earth, and ultimately dies–yet which
nevertheless bears much fruit. In Mr. Gabrielian’s case, it might be
more precise to say that his life encompassed many grains, which
blossomed in many different soils, and have left us with whole fields of
ripe, abundant fruit–which will surely nourish us in the years to come.

This fact, at least, might offer us some small consolation from the
sorrow of losing Mr. Gabrielian. Indeed, it is very hard to believe
that this man–this grand figure, whose influence and effect is so
deeply felt in all our lives–is now in his eternal rest. But this is
the sad truth of earthly life, as related in these words from the Book
of Psalms:

“As for mortals, their days are like grass: They flourish like a flower
of the field. The wind passes over it, and it is gone. And its place
knows it no more.” (Ps 103:15-16)

As I said, this is the truth for every ordinary mortal life. But even
so, Hagop Gabrielian’s life was something more than an ordinary. The
image of his Maker was truly reflected in him: in his generous heart,
his creative insight, his gifts of leadership. Mr. Gabrielian knew this
very well, and he regarded his gifts as a responsibility. He freely and
abundantly gave of himself and his God-given talent, for the benefit of
his family, the Armenian republic, and especially his church. Hagop
Gabrielian was a true Christian gentleman, on whom the love of God will
rest forever.

As a human being, Mr. Gabrielian’s character was formed out of the
combination of virtues and qualities he acquired from a solid Armenian
family life. The son of Gabriel and Artzvig Gabrielian, Hagop was born
in Tabriz and grew up in Tehran. He was immersed in an Armenian
background, surrounded by a vital Armenian community and church life.

As a businessman, Hagop Gabrielian was quite simply a pioneer. He found
astonishing success in a variety of concerns in Iran, and thirty years
ago, bowing to the obvious necessities of the time, transferred himself
and his family to Geneva, which became his greatly beloved base of
operations, for enterprises reaching around the globe.

Needless to say, it was in the realm of family life that Mr. Gabrielian
felt he had achieved his greatest successes: The touching love he felt
for his dear wife of nearly fifty years, Katherine; the great blessing
of his three daughters–Caroline, Christina, and Linda–and the fine
families they have built; the pride he felt towards his younger brother,
Sarkis, and his family; and most recently, the indescribable joy brought
to the Gabrielians through their five grandchildren.

These were the things that mattered to Hagop Gabrielian the most. These
were the things for which he thanked God every day. He used to enjoy
telling people that, “Living is an art.” And when you witnessed Mr.
Gabrielian in the forge of his family, you caught a glimpse of a supreme
artist: a man who knew how to live life to the fullest, and to relish
the very act of living.

Of course, there have been other people besides his family, who have
been touched by Hagop Gabrielian’s great generosity of spirit. And not
merely individuals, but even an entire nation: the Republic of Armenia,
for which Mr. Gabrielian was an ardent and foresighted benefactor. He
was the sponsor of many projects to develop and advance our homeland in
these early years of freedom.

Naturally, Hagop Gabrielian was also a magnanimous benefactor of the
Armenian Church. He felt very close to the church, and drew strength
and inspiration from the heritage it preserves. The faith he always
carried with him was the foundation and guide for his lifetime of
activity and leadership.

Mr. Gabrielian performed one very special act of kindness on behalf of
the Armenian Church, which I believe symbolizes the gentle tenderness of
his feeling for the faith of his fathers. It took place more than a
decade ago. The pontiff of the Armenian Church, His Holiness Vasken
I–who had governed the church as Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of
All Armenians for close to forty years at the time–had been diagnosed
with cancer, and was in need of treatment. These were the early days of
the independent republic, and especially with a leader of Vehapar’s
stature, the news of his illness had to be dealt with in a discrete and
respectful way.

Only a few people, really, knew of Catholicos Vasken’s condition; but
Hagop Gabrielian was one of them. It was he who immediately volunteered
his own resources to ensure that the Catholicos would receive the best
medical care available in Europe. And Mr. Gabrielian volunteered
himself, as well: to look after the Catholicos, spend time with him,
make him comfortable, during his period away from the Holy See. As we
all know, Vehapar finally did succumb to his affliction–in the fullness
of his age, and after a productive and meaningful life. But Hagop
Gabrielian brought a special grace to the difficult final year of
Vehapar’s life–quietly, without any fanfare, simply out of his feelings
of love and respect. For that, all members of the Armenian Church owe
Hagop Gabrielian a profound debt of gratitude.

Now, a decade after those events, we stand in the same position towards
Mr. Gabrielian himself. This last year was not easy for him, or for his
family. But I am certain that his loved ones were able to fill the
final period of his life with the love, the grace, and indeed the sense
of hope, which Hagop Gabrielian so often gave to others. As a great
admirer and personal friend of Mr. Gabrielian’s for many years now, I
know I am not alone in saying that he has always been in my heart and
prayers. And he always will be.

On this occasion, I express my deep condolences to his wife, Mrs.
Katherine Gabrielian; to his children–Caroline and Gregory, Christina
and Berj, Linda and Christian–and his grandchildren: Olympia,
Marie-Catherine, Alexandre, Adriana, and Anna-Karina. My sympathies
also go to the family of his late brother Sarkis; to the Atayan family;
and of course, to Mr. Gabrielian’s many loved ones and friends.

We are consoled to know that he has now gone forward, to reside in the
company of many worthy souls who have gone before him, within the loving
embrace of God. May our Lord bless his soul, and may He remember Hagop
Gabrielian on that great day, when He establishes His kingdom. Amen.


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