AWOL (Armenian Weekly On-Line): A Tribute to James Tashjian

The Armenian Weekly On-Line: AWOL
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AWOL (Armenian Weekly On-Line): A Tribute to James Tashjian
"The Armenian Weekly", Volume 72, No. 51, December 23-30, 2006 pp. 17-20

1. Obituary: James Tashjian (1922-2006)

2. Remembering Jimmy Tashjian
By Antranig Kasbarian

3. Jimmy Tashjian Personified Armenian Journalism
By Tom Vartabedian

4. James H. Tashjian: Assorted Reminiscences
By C.K. Garabed

5. James H. Tashjian: A Reflection on a Literary Legend
By Christian Garbis

6. A Tribute to James Tashjian
By Dorothy Esperian

7. Remembrances of Unger James H. Tashjian
By Joseph Dagdigian

8. A Farewell To James H. Tashjian
By Betty Apigian Kessel
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1. James Tashjian (1922-2006)

WATERTOWN, Mass.-James Harutune Tashjian (b. 1922), the chief editor of the
Hairenik/Armenian Weekly for more than 3 decades, passed away on Nov. 29.

Tashjian studied at Boston and Cambridge schools, receiving degrees in
history before serving for four years in the U.S. Army during World War II.
His tour included stops in Persia and Europe, for which he won the Etousa
Award for distinguished service.

In 1946, he married Virginia Agababian. In the following years, he became
chief editor of The Armenian Weekly. He was also an editor of The Armenian

At an early age, he entered the fledgling Armenian Youth Federation and
served that organization as chairman of its Central Executive through eight
terms and advisor for 20 additional years. He was honored as an AYF National
Honorary Member by the organization.

He was the first Armenian-American to receive the Church’s "Prince of
Cilicia" Award, awarded to him by Catholicos Zareh I of the Great House of

He was the author of The Armenian American in World War II and My Name is
Saroyan and also published numerous pamphlets and articles in the Armenian

He is survived by his wife Virginia and son, Douglas Sevan.

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2. Remembering Jimmy Tashjian
By Antranig Kasbarian

It’s truly an honor and a pleasure to offer these words in memory of James
Tashjian, or "Jimmy," as we all knew him.

It’s an honor, first of all, because of Jimmy’s lion-like stature and
impressive accomplishments on behalf of our community. He was a charter
member of the AYF and leader of its Central Executive for many years; editor
of the Hairenik Weekly, then the Armenian Review, for a total of 37 years;
and author of numerous books and pamphlets that had a significant impact
from both literary and historical standpoints. Through these involvements,
Jimmy’s career covered and indeed reflected many significant chapters in our
national development on these shores.

But Jimmy’s true significance lies in something more. For amidst the
accomplishments, his essence came through in the difficult, often uphill
battles he fought for the sake of our national ideals. During the Cold War
years, Jimmy fought tirelessly to uphold Armenian nationalism, especially
the ideal of a free, independent and united Armenia. He argued that despite
all forms of repression and domination, Armenians would rise from the ashes
and one day transcend their predicament. For a people who had only recently
experienced genocide and brutal Sovietization-exiled and scattered on one
hand, occupied and shackled on the other-such idealism had tremendous
affirmative value: It emphasized hope, perseverance and a stand for liberty
at a time when naysayers derided this as hopeless romanticism. Where are
these naysayers today, I wonder?

At a time when Western Armenia had been wiped off the map, and Eastern
Armenia absorbed into the Soviet Union, Armenian nationhood was greatly
threatened. Stateless, traumatized and ghettoized, Armenians wondered if
they had become a mere footnote in history, a people with a past but without
a present. Jimmy and his colleagues came to the rescue, restoring our pride
and dignity by emphasizing that Armenians were somebodys-not only on the
national stage, but on the world stage as well. With accomplishments in the
fields of science, literature, music, diplomacy and more, Armenians were
brought to life as vibrant actors, with a culture second to none. We can
recall, for instance, Jimmy’s stories about Armenian communities in India,
Europe and elsewhere, where Armenians played an integral, often prominent
role in the development of these societies. This, too, was an enormous
accomplishment, even if Jimmy did take things too far at times: Who can
forget his energetic insistence that Christopher Columbus was Armenian? (You
mean, he wasn’t?)

Jimmy will also be remembered as a skillful community builder. Along with
peers such as James Mandalian, Arthur Giragosian and K. Merton Bozoian, he
nurtured and promoted a new generation of Armenian youth who had one foot in
the Old World and one foot in the New. He saw the Armenian community not in
narrowly political terms, but as a field for developing our creative talents
in various spheres. Indeed, many of us-myself included-would probably not be
here today without the inspiration and encouragement Jimmy provided.

Jimmy often seemed larger than life. His Weekly headlines ran large,
trumpeting the latest achievement or controversy with a boldness that
commanded one’s attention. As an editor, he was a tireless promoter,
shunning the mirage of objectivity in favor of a partisan perspective that
emphasized advocacy over complacency. And he was an important link to the
titans of our First Republic-Darbinian, Vratsian, Dro-who served as his
guideposts and mentors. All of this while ensconced within the Hairenik
Building at 212 Stuart Street, Boston, whose hallowed halls were as imposing
as they were cherished.

Jimmy possessed a wealth of intelligence and erudition. Indeed, many of us
have seen our vocabularies enriched with the rare, pungent words he brought
forth so effortlessly. He penned many scholarly articles-I remember one on
Karabakh written in 1968, before many of us even knew what Karabakh was! But
even more significant today, in this age of careerism and individualism, is
that Jimmy shunned the possibilities of a lucrative career in order to place
his talents at the service of his people. Such sacrifice, made so willingly
and positively, can only inspire us in this day and age.

James Tashjian was also an important figure in the history of the Armenian
Church. He was the first layman to receive the prestigious "Prince of
Cilicia" order, awarded by His Holiness Catholicos Zareh I. And there are
good reasons for this distinction. As we know, the Armenian Church has been
not only a house of God, but our national home. And yet, during the church
schism of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, most of our community’s nationalistic
elements were left adrift, having to gather and worship in makeshift or
rented facilities. Jimmy believed wholeheartedly in an Armenian Church free
of Soviet manipulations, one in which Armenian nationalism could flourish.
And so, not surprisingly, Jimmy was vocally at the forefront of our
community’s appeal to the Great House of Cilicia to take us under its
wing-an effort which finally bore fruit in 1956 and which led to the
erection of many churches that serve as our homes to this day.

On a concluding note, let me add a word about Jimmy’s life-long partner,
Virginia, who not only supported him but had a distinguished career of her
own as a librarian and administrator. Unfortunately, the 1980s and ’90s
became a time of estrangement between Jimmy and his beloved Hairenik
Association, and with Virginia’s help we worked successfully to bridge that
gap. The year was 1992, and in my final days as editor of the Weekly, I
thought of approaching Jimmy, just to say hello. Knowing his imposing
personality, I instead approached Virginia-then head librarian at my local
public library-and timidly asked if Jimmy might be willing to see me.
Virginia graciously arranged the meeting, and Jimmy welcomed me with open
arms. Before too long, a vibrant camaraderie had been reestablished,
culminating in several Hairenik events in the late 1990s and early 2000s,
duly honoring Jimmy for his lifetime of achievement.

Jimmy Tashjian was a national treasure. His vision of an independent Armenia
not only galvanized an entire generation; it carried a message that today
has been largely vindicated. If we are to safeguard this treasure and this
vision, then we must carry on in the same spirit-feisty, patriotic,
unafraid-that Jimmy displayed to the very end.

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3. Jimmy Tashjian Personified Armenian Journalism
By Tom Vartabedian

When it came to the integrity of news, the clarity of language and the
dedication to getting at the truth, James H. Tashjian had no superiors in
the newspaper world.

He was a scholar, youth advisor, friend, mentor, and AYF trailblazer rolled
into one. He was the man who plucked me out of obscurity and pointed me to

As a result, I owe him not just my job as a newsman but my life as a
conscientious Armenian. He made all that possible.

It is with a heavy heart and fond recollection that I mourn his death. The
Armenian community has lost a dedicated servant who embodied every nuance of

My association with him dates back 45 years when I was a scribe for the
Somerville Nejdeh AYF Chapter. I had reported on a basketball game and my
writing was crude.

I remember climbing the endless steps of that old Hairenik building at 212
Stuart Street in Boston to the third floor where Jimmy’s office was located.
It was a vantage point for young aspiring journalists like myself – a
pedestal which produced such great writers as the prodigious William

The place was bustling with such venerable folks as Jimmy Mandalian and
Roupen Darpinian, a community of tapping typewriter keys, glue pots, cigar
smoke and organizations that whirred with activity.

As dingy and outdated as the institution was, it was rock solid and it was
home. He glanced over that basketball write-up and threw a compliment my
way. One by-line led to another and a career was launched.

Many more trips followed to that sacred office of his. Jimmy’s desk always
drew a curious glance, packed to the rafters with books and papers. I would
comment on that "clutter."

"The sign of a busy mind is a busy desk," he told me. "An empty desk belongs
to an empty mind."

Jimmy was a master of platitudes, recognized for his quips and casual
one-liners, spicing the humor with a dash of satire.

He would sit at that congested desk, sleeves rolled up halfway to his
elbows, chain-smoking cigars, laboring over other people’s copy, mine
included, for better or worse.

Then, finished, he would sit and talk-a conversation that hopped and skipped
like a Mexican jumping bean, from the thick deli sandwiches at Jacob Werth’s
to the sanctified Harvard-Yale football game, the grave situation in Armenia
and the grim political climate in America.

What set him apart from most of his contemporaries was his ability to laugh
at himself. Jimmy Tashjian was a crusader who lived and worked to entertain
and inform his readers. He was good company with his incredibly broad

At age 16, he entered his pantheon as sports editor of the Hairenik Weekly.
After returning from service with the U.S. Armed Forces following the
turbulent years of World War II, he accepted an editorship with The Armenian
Review, then in short order, joint editorship with James Mandalian of the
Hairenik Weekly-a job he held for more than three decades, longer than any
predecessor or successor.

To this day, I don’t know what the "H" stood for in his middle name but I
suspect it’s for Hell-bent-one who remained stubbornly determined and going
full speed. That was Jimmy’s trademark.

The good old days wouldn’t be so old if more people lived them. Anyone
gazing at the Hairenik during those halcyon years of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s
and 1970s discovered an inimitable face to the journal, one that gave the
Armenian communities direction and identity.

Because space was at a premium and correspondence heavy, he spent half his
time putting articles into the paper and the other half keeping things out.

His tutelage was mightier than the pen, striving to teach young Armenians
like myself not to make a living at journalism per se, but to make a life.
My professor taught me well.

"Newspapers," he often agreed, "are nothing more than circulating libraries
with high blood pressure."

How well we both found that out.

Lo the ubiquitous Armenian. Who could ever forget his time-honored Bostonian
columns written with a true Harvardian flare? The fact he was a Harvard
graduate never gave him a superiority complex. The doctorate he had received
was seldom mentioned in a prefix. He preferred to be "one of the guys."

Jimmy didn’t establish priorities. He didn’t have time. His face was his
numerous columns and editorials, always setting out to do 10 times as good
by doing 10 times as much.

He was fueled by a heady mixture of ambition and an insatiable appetite for
the powers of language. His pieces jolted the reader, honest and heartfelt.
Jimmy gave the Hairenik a pulse.

My professor had guts, wisdom and integrity. He didn’t have patience for
elitism, bigotry, hypocrisy or undue flattery. His vision was always for the
common good.

People of all persuasions were his confidants and sought his good judgment
and wise counsel. He slept with the news, lived with the news and stayed on
top of the news.

When Jimmy left the Hairenik in 1976, the cadence stopped. You can take the
newsman out of the newsroom but you can never take the soul out of
journalism. That part of it remained steadfast to his dying day.

He laid out the foundation. Others built upon it. His spirit will continue
to dominate what he often called the Armenian Valhalla.

We last met this past summer at Café Anoush in Watertown. He was seated at a
table with his wife Virginia and I joined him. But I couldn’t get a word in
edgewise. Others repeatedly intervened to say hello and wish him well.

I finally broke the news about my pending retirement-a career that also
spanned 40 years. He looked at me and laughed. Retirement?

"Anyone who looks forward to retirement soon finds himself doing dishes
three times a day and all those other household obligations instead of
fishing seven times a week."

A point well taken, my friend.

"Maybe I’ll just retire and not tell my wife," I said kiddingly.

He smiled and took my hand.

"Well done," he replied. "Just one piece of advice. Don’t just sit around
and look bored. Keep busy."

I thank you Jimmy. The Hairenik thanks you. The boys from Lowell thank you.
We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

May God bless you and keep you in his own Valhalla.

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4. James H. Tashjian: Assorted Reminiscences
By C.K. Garabed

Whether it was sports and politics, arts and science, music and literature,
you name it, nothing was inscrutable to the mind of Jimmy Tashjian. What’s
more, he always got to the core of the subject. My own travels with the mind
of J.T. was an intellectual journey of the highest order.

If I ran by members of my family something intended for my column and they
cautioned about its possible obscurity to our readers, I would point out
that it would be perfectly understood by Jimmy, and that was good enough for
me. Jimmy, on occasion, would send me some witty material, knowing I would
perceive their aptness for use in The Armenian weekly.

Words to Jimmy were like jewels, to be used judiciously for adornment but
not ostentatiously, which is the mark of a good writer and editor.

When, during one of our conversations, I quoted the Russian nationalist
composer Moussorgsky who called Beethoven "The Thinker" and Berlioz "The
Super-Thinker," Jimmy took umbrage and let me know so. To him, Beethoven was
the Apex, the Summit, the Zenith of classical composers. When I persisted in
my defense of Berlioz, he very graciously consented to a Mexican stand-off.

When I related to him how my fellow Armenians would pass on to me their
parents’ books in the Armenian language because they felt that they would be
placed where they would do the most public good, and how one book, The Human
Comedy by Saroyan, that was translated into Armenian by James Mandalian,
Jimmy’s predecessor and mentor at the Hairenik, I had sent to the Hairenik
for their archives, being published by them – Jimmy let out a sigh and said
that that book was the only one of Mandalian’s translations that was missing
from his library. At that moment, I wished that I had held on to it long
enough to have been able to complete Jimmy’s collection.

I am indebted to him for stimulating my interest in the career and
activities of attorney Vahan Cardashian, the organizer of the American
Committee for an Independent Armenia during the World War I years and after.

He was one of the few people I met who knew of the activities of John T.
Flynn of the Chicago Tribune, who not only was active with Charles Lindbergh
on the America First Committee that tried to keep the U.S. out of the
European conflict that became known as WW II, but who published a series of
articles in the Tribune under the title of The Smear terror. It was in these
articles, later printed as a booklet at his own expense, that Flynn exposed
the nefarious activities of Avedis Derounian, alias John Roy Carlson, as
well as the background of the 1933 assassination of Archbishop Levon
Tourian, whom he dubbed The Red Bishop. I asked Jimmy if it was time to
disseminate Flynn’s work to the Armenian community at large. He proposed
holding off on such a venture. He gave me the feeling that there were some
poisons brewing to which Flynn’s work would be an antidote.

Ah, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy – who is there like unto thee?

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5. James H. Tashjian: A Reflection on a Literary Legend
By Christian Garbis

It appears that most of the great literary figures of our generation have
already left us, the latest being James H. Tashjian, the editor of the
Armenian Weekly for a time span of four decades, while simultaneously the
long-time editor of the quarterly Armenian Review and one of the most
prolific writers the Armenian-American community has ever produced.

Tashjian started his career at the Hairenik Association as a young writer in
his late teens on behalf of the then-newly founded AYF, contributing to an
English-language column featured in the Hairenik Daily at the time. When the
Hairenik Weekly (later renamed the Armenian Weekly) was established in 1934
he was almost immediately instilled as a long-standing fixture in the
paper’s progression as a voice not only of the Armenian community at large
in the United States but also for the ideals propagated by the
ARF-Dashnaktsutiun, of which he became a long-time staunchly dedicated
member. Under the initial tutelage of fellow great Weekly and Armenian
Review editor James Mandalian, and having served alongside master
Armenian-language writers/editors of the Hairenik Daily, notably Rouben
Darbinian and Minas Tölölyan, he was unwaveringly encouraged to fine-tune
his craft.

His love for the classics of literature, as well as the inspiration he
fostered from romantic writers such as Herman Melville, was unmistakably
evident in his writings. Countless social or political commentaries were
churned out during his tenure. These were apart from frequent written calls
to activate the youth in tackling issues that were most pertinent to them as
young Armenians living in their actual homeland, America. For the Armenian
Review he printed thousands of texts regarding literature, culture and
history, revealing to the publication’s readers information about their
deep-rooted ancestry that would otherwise have been unabsorbed. The editor
also had a mental encyclopedic database at his immediate disposal, which he
accessed seemingly spontaneously when putting pen to paper or purportedly
lecturing to a crowd numbering in the hundreds. Even in his later years,
despite having suffered from a stroke, Tashjian maintained his wit and
sharpness, able to recall details of his literary and activist past.

He was also known for his direct, perhaps considered strong-willed or
intense persona as well as occasional obstinacy. In my few encounters with
Tashjian, I only saw a person who was compassionate while simultaneously
playfully argumentative and harmlessly inquisitive. The demonstration of
knowledge that he shared with me, although briefly, was by all means
astounding to the point of sheer intimidation.

The sincere relationship between William Saroyan and Tashjian was not
unknown to the community, and the two of them maintained their friendship
until Mr. Saroyan’s untimely death in 1981. Both writers emerged during the
same period of pre-World War II as contemporaries, although they would for
the most part cater to varying, mainly unrelated audiences. Fellow
intellectual and documenter of the early Armenian-American community, Sarkis
Atamian, also shared his camaraderie. Mr. Tashjian was also a promoter of
other fledgling writers emerging from the maturity of the AYF, for instance
the late activist Leo Sarkisian as well as Tom Vartabedian, who to this day
provides invaluable contributions to the Weekly, partly in honor to his

On November 29, the Armenian-American readership lost one of the greatest
literary legends it has known and will ever know. Tashjian’s dedication to
the community, especially the youth, was substantial beyond measure. In
respect for his devotion he was bestowed the honorary title of Prince of
Cilicia. He also enjoyed the admiration of thousands of his readers from his
generation as well as subsequent ones.

So long as the community exists it must always remember and understand the
substantial contributions that Tashjian left behind. It is rather
inconceivable that an anthology of his most notable writings for the Weekly
and Armenian Review has not been issued thus far; it is a tragic blow to the
entire Armenian English-language literary world. His legacy deserves the
recognition that it has unquestionably earned.

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6. A Tribute to James Tashjian
By Dorothy Esperian

It was with great sadness that I read of James "Jimmy" Tashjian’s passing on
November 29, 2006. Once again, Armenians have lost a dedicated, hard-working
person who had a vast knowledge of history, the Dashnaktsutiun, and all
those individuals who struggled during very difficult times to keep the
Armenian identity and spirit alive.

His passing made me think back to the years when I first became a member of
the AYF in the Newton Zeitoun Chapter, then the Somerville Nejdeh Chapter,
and finally the Watertown Gaidzags.

Jimmy, as we respectfully called him, had placed me in the Watertown chapter
when the Somerville chapter was no longer active, because he knew the AYF
was the best method for Armenian youth to learn Armenian history, and to
help our people achieve their organizational goals. He was always concerned
about the vitality and strength of the AYF, and never wanted to see one
member lost.

In June 1966, I was elected as an alternate to the AYF Central Executive,
and was called to serve in January 1967 when Berge Gregian could no longer
remain on the CE. We held meetings and many activities at the old Hairenik
Building on 212 Stuart St., Boston, Mass. Each time the Central Executive
members arrived at the Hairenik, we’d always visit Jimmy’s office first,
which was next to the Central office; since Jimmy was the AYF executive
secretary, he could give us an update on the mail and recent chapter events.

It seemed as if Jimmy was always at the Hairenik, working on the Armenian
Weekly, writing for an AYF Educational Blue Book, or just greeting visitors
when they arrived. Jimmy knew everyone, and it seems everyone knew Jimmy.
Even my parents, both charter member Tzeghagarons, spoke highly of him.

When the Central Executive members decided to take a lunch or dinner break,
Jimmy accompanied us, and educated us on history, the current geopolitical
situation, and most of all respect for the ARF.

I remember a group of us accompanying Jimmy to Whitinsville, Mass., to
reorganize the AYF chapter there and administer the AYF oath to new members.
Those two tasks of organizing new chapters and membership were a joy to
Jimmy. Whatever there was to be done, Jimmy had the knowledge and capability
to complete the task, and impart that same knowledge and capability to the
Central Executive members.

Jimmy emphasized education for AYF chapters by speaking on many topics, and
often writing and encouraging the use of the AYF Educational Blue Books. He
would always strive to create well-rounded AYF members by encouraging and
emphasizing participation in all AYF programs and events.

Jimmy was delighted to have the first AYF Winter Olympics held in the main
hall of the old Hairenik building. Whether it was the Winter or Summer
Olympics, Jimmy was there, either speaking at the opening ceremonies or
watching the events.

During those years, the AYF was a magnet organization with over 3,000
members, including many from California and Canada. Jimmy was very proud of
it. In essence, we were all his "children." There weren’t any members left
uninfluenced by him somehow. He taught us good leadership, pride and respect
for the ARF.

He was never separate from us. He was, and always will be, with us.

Dorothy Esperian served on the AYF Central Executive from January 1967 to
June 1973.
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7. Remembrances of Unger James H. Tashjian
By Joseph Dagdigian

HARVARD, Mass.-It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing away
of James H. Tashjian. Jimmy, as he was know to his friends, was a Harvard
University educated historian and past editor of the Hairenik Weekly (later
the Armenian Weekly) and the Armenian Review. He was a dear friend and
In the early 1960s many of us from the Lowell community, myself included,
became members of the AYF Central Executive (CE) and various CE committees.
While Jimmy knew my uncles and my mother, and thus me, I did not know him
except as the editor of the Hairenik Weekly until I became a member of the
AYF CE. Jimmy was an enormous help to the CE and I shudder to think how we
would have proceeded without his council and advice. Later, while serving as
CE chairman for a number of years, I realized even more the valuable
assistance, advice, and counsel he offered. Jimmy, from his editor’s office
next to the Central Executive office in the old Hairenik Building in Boston,
took care of many of the CE’s administrative tasks-like answering the phone
and fulfilling requests for AYF materials such as stationary and other items
available from the CE office.
Most importantly, however, Jimmy was an educator, friend and mentor. Jimmy,
a professional historian, imparted valuable and interesting insights into
current world events, Armenian history, and the various Armenian communities
throughout the United States and Canada.
His advice on AYF matters was invaluable, never insisting that we take a
particular decision, but simply giving us his informed opinion on the
issues. Most important, he was a mentor and a friend. His advice was not
limited to AYF or Armenian affairs; he frequently advised us on personal
issues as we, in our early 20s, were stepping out into the real world. He
set an example with his selfless dedication to the cause of Armenian justice
and liberty. In a memorable conversation I had with him in the 1960s or
early 1970s about Armenia’s future, he assured me that in our lifetime we
would see a free Armenia. When I questioned him if this would come about as
a result of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, he again assured me that
this would not be the case, that it would result from the collapse of the
Soviet Union as a result of internal inconsistencies and problems. His
answer was comforting but to this date I do not know if I believed him
because I really thought this was true, or because I simply wanted this to
be true. He was right, even though this was not the conventional wisdom of
the time.
Jimmy had an immense formative effect on me and, I think, many of my Lowell
AYF ungers and ungerouhis, including my wife. I can say that I would not be
the same person I am now were it not for Jimmy’s example and mentoring. Even
though it has been many decades since I graduated from the AYF and the AYF
Central Executive, not a day passes when I am not thankful for his
assistance, mentoring and friendship. We did get together a few times each
year since those days, and his insight into events and his sense of humor
never diminished. Each time we met he asked about "the Lowell boys," listing
them individually and asking about them and their families. Jimmy, of
course, could not have done what he did without the support of his wonderful
wife Virginia, with whom we became equally close. Right from the start of
our relationship with Jimmy, Virginia always welcomed us at their home.
Jimmy was an avid stamp collector. Each time Jimmy learned that my wife and
I were traveling to Armenia he would ask that I bring back some Armenian
stamps for him, which I was pleased to do. Each trip (except one, I think,
in which I shamelessly forgot) I would stop at a post office and get a few
of each stamp that they had on sale. I always felt that this was too little
to do for someone who had helped me and had contributed so much to the
Armenian community and to Hye Tad. Yet, he would respond with such
enthusiasm to a new set of stamps that I knew that this was something that
meant a lot to him.
I will miss Jimmy enormously. Yet in a way I won’t, because in a very real
sense I am constantly aware of the wonderful friendship he, with Virginia,
have shown us and his lasting presence. God bless him, Virginia, and his
family. While he may be gone, his beneficial influence, contributions and
example are constantly with us.

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8. A Farewell To James H. Tashjian
By Betty Apigian Kessel

How do I bid farewell to a very good friend I have known for most of my
lifetime? To write about it is to relive again the dreadful news I received
two days after his passing and it is almost too much to bear. I feel a
tremendous loss, a loss that lives inside me that says I will never know
Jim’s kind of greatness ever again in my lifetime. My immediate response was
to phone his beloved wife of almost 60 years, Virginia, to express my and
Bob’s condolence. It is to her also that Armenians of Jim’s following owe a
debt of gratitude.

My heroes have all passed on to the other side. My heroes were real men-men
of uncompromising integrity and honor They were men deserving to be looked
up to, solid leaders and fighters for the noble Armenian Cause. Their ideals
made you an idealist. That too was our Jim. Can future generations turn out
stewardship such as this?

These men are the ones who while standing on silvery white clouds greeted my
dear friend upon his arrival to his just reward in Heaven. With smiles on
their faces and hands reaching outward to him they called, "Paree yeh-gar,
Unger Tashjian, welcome," and Jim grabbed the hands of Hagop Mouradian,
Arthur Giragosian, Gobernik Tandourjian and Reuben Darbinian. Which one will
yield the microphone to the other is what I wonder, and the thought puts a
much needed smile on my face.

Admiration? You bet I admired him. I admired him on many levels. You see, I
have known this honorable individual since I was 10 years old. He was the
man at the Hairenik Association at 212 Stuart Street in Boston, Mass., when
as just a kid I wrote a letter petitioning them to form a junior Armenian
Youth Federation Chapter in Pontiac, Mich., my hometown. Permission was
granted and the young Aharonians started off with 5 members, and when I left
at age 24 to marry I had corresponded with Boston many many times. Jim was
elated over this small Great Lakes chapter with me now an adult, leading a
more youthful group of AYFers to win the coveted educational trophy,
surpassing those top heavy -with- members eastern chapters. We may not have
been competitors in the AYF Olympics but we sure knew our Blue Book and
Armenian history! We had zeal.

James H. Tashjian was a man of letters, a Harvard Ph.D where he played ice
hockey and baseball. But that never created an egotistic attitude in him
like it could in others. He was grounded, knowing what an advantage he had
been given in life. Rather than use his coveted Ivy League education to
pursue a lucrative professional career, he dedicated himself using every bit
of his vast knowledge and expertise work as editor at the Hairenik
Association of the Armenian Weekly and the Armenian Review with Reuben
Darbinian and James Mandalian. Who amongst us today would make that kind of
sacrifice? Those Armenian Reviews from the 50’s lining my book shelves mean
more to me now than ever.

After many years of valued service to his cherished Armenian people, winds
of change took place at the Hairenik. It was an opportune time for Jim to
pursue a successful career in book editing, counting several best sellers to
his credit. This was trite compared to the volumes of classics he was
assigned to edit. He was a great figure in the literary publishing world and
he preferred to keep that fact under wraps. That was the caliber of the
individual who once worked for the Hairenik Association.

Jim and I were bound by mutual respect and by being Armenian. I was
fortunate. He called me a warrior, I called him my teacher. He was a father
figure, a big brother. He saw in me what he called "great potential" and I
set out to prove to Jim that his faith in me was deserved. I owe my strength
and interest in writing to his confidence in me. He told me to leap forward
and I vaulted. He told me to begin a column for the Armenian Weekly and to
believe in myself as he believed in me and I did so. Jim was very proud of
that. I consciously dedicated my column to Jim, my other mentor my father,
and the Martyrs.

Tashjian became my best friend. I trusted him. We corresponded for a quarter
of a century. On a cerebral level he was unparalleled. Anyone who received a
letter from Jim had better have a dictionary alongside as you attempted to
understand the words he used. It was natural for him, just part of the
Harvard man who wore beautiful Harris tweeds. He took frequent fishing trips
with friends to Maine and Canada, and even those expeditions were described
with such elaborate splendor that you felt you were along as he cast out his
line. He was my advisor and mentor. He was wise, erudite, urbane and no one
could describe with as much deep emotion and eloquence what the Ottoman
Turks had done to the Armenian Nation like Jim did. He shared his politcal
beliefs with me, and oh how he loved the Armenian people.

In recent months he lost a great friend in Alaska, Sarkis Atamian, and two
of his professors at school whom he called his mentors. Jim wrote to me,
"Their passing left me destitute for their professional and salubrious
views." Then his sister Betty, too, died leaving him greatly saddened. Now
Jim Tashjian’s passing has created this sadness, emptiness in me and others.

Jim cheated me. Years ago I asked him to write my eulogy. We were kindred
souls about the fate of the Martyrs, Genocide recognition, Armenia,
reparations and present-day leadership. He read my soul and understood its
depths like my husband does. Jim never complied. It was the one thing he
wouldn’t even address in his letters. Given a choice, I would not trust
anyone else to do it.

I received my last letter from Jim in September of this year. Its tardiness
had already set me to worry about why I had not heard from him and then I
was notified of his death. It was to be the last correspondence between two
dedicated and loyal friends. To say I have been greatly enriched by
association with him is an understatement. While others have plenitude and
positions of importance, I am rich as Croesus in the knowledge that James H.
Tashjian believed in the capability of this Armenian woman and that will
sustain me until I, too, am greeted by him on a silvery cloud floating over
Ararat and Armenia.

Can you imagine how saddened I am by his passing? I am so proud he
considered me worthy.


(c) 2006 Armenian Weekly On-Line. All Rights Reserved.

–Boundary_(ID_JKWQjgZArXniLub1b7B1Ew)- –

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS