A Salute to Ken Sarajian from his AYF Comrades

I was introduced to the legend of Kenneth J. Sarajian in the early 1970s. He was walking around the swimming pool at the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Olympics hotel headquarters with the beige handset and expandable cord of a desk telephone hanging out the right pocket of his extra large Bermuda shorts. If you don’t know what a desk telephone is, shame, shame, shame. It seemed like everyone in the hotel knew him, and he knew everyone  as well.

Nearly 50 years later, the Armenian National Committee of America is honoring Mr. Sarajian with the Vahan Cardashian award for his lifelong contributions to the advancement of Armenian causes.  

If there were a Mt. Rushmore of the AYF leadership, I’d pick three of my peers’ faces to be carved into it: Kenneth Sarajian, Michael Najarian and Michael Hagopian.

Then, I imagine another Mt. Rushmore of my mentors during that time: Aram Sonny Gavoor (Violet Merian), Avedis Avo Alashaian (Rosemary Merjanian), Shant Chebookjian (Rosanne Karoghlanian) and Tom Vartabedian (Nancy Yeghoian).

A third Mt. Rushmore is needed with the faces of Hachig Kazarian, John Berberian, Ken Kalajian, Roger Krikorian, Robert Sohigian and Onnik Dinkjian.

If you are of a certain age, and were involved in the AYF, there are certain individuals who have become synonymous with their city or state of residence. Ken Sarajian and New Jersey have that connection for me.

I also think of Onnik Dinkjian, Avo Alashaian and Kenny’s brother Richard.

When I think of Armenians from Granite City, Illinois, I think of Michael (Karen Sogoian), Stephen (Susan Lee) and Jeffrey Hagopian (Lynne).  Put Lisa and Greg Bedian and Vahe Habeshian in that mix too.

Bettendorf, Iowa belongs to Tako “Mama” Sharoian and her offspring, including the Gearys.

Chicago raised the Mardoians, Lucy and Chris Boyajian, Knarig Boyajian, Noreen Kevorkian and Yeretzgeen Evelyn Boyajian (Tirouhi Mkrtscjian).

Denise Lansing owns Racine, Wisconsin.

The Karentz family of Indianapolis has just as much claim to the city as a certain Mississippi bred quarterback wearing #18 in a football uniform.

Grand Rapids, Michigan strung together the tennis Saryans.

The Kouyoumdjians inherited Cleveland, Ohio from John D. Rockefeller.

Galt, Ontario was the stomping grounds of Ralph Markarian (Audrey Sogoian).

Guelph, Ontario belongs to the golfing Buzbuzians named Greg and Jeff as well as shopping center magnate, Karnig Mann.

Preston, Ontario lays claim to Mark and John Palvetzian, both of whom mastered tennis with wood rackets.

(In a radius of about ten miles or 16.0934 kilometers, where are you going to find six guys with more character and as handsome as this sextet? You can credit Molson’s or Labatt’s beer, Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnuts, or Canadian Club Whiskey. Or you can just say there is something special about the good clean air and water of Canada.)   

Peter Jelalian can lay claim to multiple areas: New York City (Queens) and as the Barone of Camp Haiastan. Counselors Kenny Simonian (Sonya Shoushanian), Jimmy Dardouni and Jimmy Altounian (Priscilla Piligian) are also attached to Camp Haiastan.

How do you pick just one person from all the great folks in the Boston area? I think the six Najarian brothers should be in that group.  You must include Robert Tutunjian and Shooshan Kassabian. Don’t forget Ron Tutunjian, Richard Chebookjian, Laura Terzian, Johnny Kulegian, Leo Topjian, Sharon Paul, blue-eyed Lynn Tanashian up in Lowell, the Arabians, Marguerite Kevorkian, Stepan and Satenig Dulgerian, the Megerdichians and so many, many more.

Philadelphia and the Vosbikian Clan are one and the same. Add the Keshgegians to that list and Garo Der Kaloustian.

Despite all the success the Providence Varantian Chapter achieved, one personality stands above the rest. The late Reverend Vartan (Nubar) Kassabian died much too early but contributed so much. You can’t think of Providence without thinking of Stepan and Richard Kanarian, the Varadians, the Abrahamians and the Piligians.

Six-foot-five Hagop Antranigian owns the state of Maine as much as that family in Kennebunkport and the mall in Kittery.

I am not going to name a single person or a single name from Detroit, other than Aram and Manoushag Gavoor. I still live in the expanded Metro Detroit area;if I leave off a name, I will be skewered like a shish full of peppers, tomatoes and onions on the grill at the St. Sarkis Armenian Church grape blessing picnic shepherded by Father Hrant Kevorkian.

I know there are many, many more names I am leaving off, and I apologize profusely, but it is only because my sixty-six year old brain is running as slow as my ten-year-old Dell desktop computer with a Windows Vista operating system.

Look at all these names. I dare you to pick a bad apple out of the entire orchard. Our Armenian nationality, our dedication to the first Christian church starting in 301 A.D., our AYF experience, and the “ian” at the end of our last names some time in our ancestry all contribute to the formula. It is a shame God gave so many Armenian girls that nice thick head of hair when us guys have so little, but what the heck.

The baby boomer generation salutes Kenneth J. Sarajian and his family. We are proud of his accomplishments, dedication, friendship and sense of humor.  We will be with you in New York City on October 13, 2018 giving you a standing ovation.


George Sarkisian
Highland, Michigan

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