The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee, on July 15, announced the passing of one of the organization’s leaders, who played a key role in the development of our national community institutions and a devoted ARF member, Unger Varoujan Koundakjian who passed away on Friday, July 14.
During Koundakjian’s funeral service on July 21 at St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Glendale, Very Rev. Viken Vassilian presented Koundakjian’s biography and remembered him for his dedicated service to the community and the Armenian homeland.
Below is the English translated text of the presentation.
Varoujan Koundakjian was born on April 24, 1934 in Beirut, Lebanon to Vartan and Ovsanna Koundakjian, both survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Vartan escaped the Genocide from Antioch, while Ovsanna Soghomonian escaped from Kessab ending up in Beirut, Lebanon via Greece. They met in Beirut, where they married in 1929 and had three children, Arpine, Alexan and Varoujan.
At a young age, Varoujan moved to Damascus with his parents, and lived there until 1946. There he attended the United School until fourth grade and became a cub scout in Homenetmen, until the age of 12.
In 1946, Varoujan and his family returned to Beirut, where he immediately began working, getting his start in the business world at a very young age. He began as a retailer and soon burnished his business prowess becoming an expert in textiles. From 1960 to 1962, Varoujan managed his brother Alexan’s talor shop where their sister also worked as a seamstress.
From a young age in Beirut, Varoujan immersed himself in community life, joining Homenetmen as a scout and as a member of the Kessab Educational Association. He then joined the renowned Hamazkayin Kaspar Ipegian Theater Company, taking on a variety of roles in a number of plays, enjoying the theater and reveling in the cultural and social life that came with it.
Varoujan was an active part of Beirut’s social, cultural and political reality. He engaged in social services and organized fund-raisers, always becoming an example to donors. He played an integral role in the “Plate of Food” campaign and the “Green Sunday” Cultural Festival efforts.
At the same time, Varoujan also played an important role in Lebanon’s local elections. He educated and empowered community members to become active participants in the political life and even transported people from their homes to the precincts to ensure that the community turned out to vote.
In 1952, Varoujan joined the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in Lebanon and began his service to the Armenian Cause through that party.
To pursue his education, in 1962, Varoujan moved to Los Angeles, where his sister Arpine was already residing, and enrolled in the Los Angeles Trade Technical College, receiving an Associates Degree in Window Display Design in 1964.
From 1965 to 1975, Varoujan worked at Diamond Tools company with Manas Boujikian. At the same time, in partnership with Manas and Mgrdich Mgrdichian, and his brother Alexan, he established a number of businesses among them the Van Liquor company.
In 1975, Varoujan established his own company. Diamotec Inc. which continues to be a leader in the semiconductor industry until today.
In Los Angeles, Varoujan joined the Hamazkayin theater troupe and again began living in the cultural milieu with his friends and acquaintances. He encouraged and financially supported burgeoning Armenian-American artists whether in the theater, the arts or literature. His personality allowed him to easily maneuver the worlds of business and culture and to appreciate and live within the artistic realm.
It was during his involvement in the Hamazkayin theater troupe that he met Armine Carapetian, whom he married in 1969. They had two children, Sevag and Lalig. Sevag married Yerado (Abrahamian), while Lalig married Aram (Aslanian), and Varoujan and Armine were blessed with their grandchildren Kami and Alik.
Since his arrival in the United States in 1962, Varoujan had an active and productive role in the ARF. He played an influential role ensuring that ARF Gomidehs have their own community centers and was especially instrumental in the establishment of the Torrance and Hollywood community centers, which until today are a gathering place for these communities, especially for their youth.
In 1978, Varoujan was elected to the ARF Central Committee, under the chairmanship of Razmig Madenlian. He was re-elected to the body in from 1980 to 1984 under the chairmanship of John Titizian, and again in 1986, under the chairmanship of Vartan Fundukian. He remained on the Central Committee from 1988 to 1990 under the chairmanship of Kevork Santikian. During his tenure in the successive bodies, he was always appointed the treasurer.
In 1989, Varoujan became a driving force in the establishment of Horizon Armenian Television.
From 1990, with his friend Manas Boujikian, Varoujan served on the ARF Bureau’s Finance Committee and during his tenure he undertook several successful ventures that ensured continued financing of the global organization. Varoujan also had the privilege of attending the ARF’s 24th World Congress, which is the party’s highest body.
He was a founding member of the Armenian Cultural Foundation Trust Fund in 1987 and was an ardent supporter and generous benefactor to the Armenian National Committee of America, whose worked he encouraged on regional, national and international levels.
He also served on the executive board of the Armenian Educational Foundation, serving at times as the ARF’s liaison to the AEF. Through his initiatives and the work of the AEF, numerous schools in villages in Armenia were renovated. The improvement and elevation of Armenian schools gave Varoujan great joy and he took pride in the accomplishments of Armenian students.
Varoujan played a key role in fund-raising efforts for Hampig Sassounian and the LA 5 defense efforts, through his own generosity, which served as encouragement and an example for others.
Since Armenia’s Independence in 1991, Varoujan brought his positive and beneficial input in construction projects in Armenia. For him, the most important concern was the development of the country in all facets. His financial and moral assistance to villagers, the poor, students and lay citizens became a key factor in Varoujan’s life. In addition to construction projects, Varoujan also played a role in the advancement of Armenia’s agriculture and farming sector, because Varoujan believed that the development of villages was an important part of the development of the entire country. He was recognized for his contributions for the development of livestock industry in the village of Gousanagyugh.
His unwavering encouragement and support of the arts and artists in Armenia spanned the spectrum of theater, music, film and other cultural fields. In 1995, he and Manas sponsored the renovation of the Hovannes Toumanian House and Museum in the village of Dsegh.
One of the centerpieces of his accomplishments in Armenia was the construction of a mixed-use building on Yerevan’s Northern Avenue, which he oversaw and executed. The building was unveiled in 2008 and a portion served as his residence in Yerevan, which had become his and his wife’s home. He partnered on this project with long-time friend Hank Dorian.
In 2011 he became a partner in the VEKS Company, which specializes in the manufacture of furniture, stone and metal production sold in Armenia and abroad. His aim in joining VEKS was to create more than 300 jobs in Armenia, and he succeeded in doing so.
In 2014, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia bestowed the coveted “Cilician Knight” medal upon Varoujan, for his continued service to the community, for his generosity to the needy and to organizations that advanced the causes in which he believed.
Varoujan was an innovative thinker. He was adept at finding solutions and confronting challenges. His agile mind enabled him to excel in every pursuit . As a talented businessman and a connoisseur of the arts, he traversed and reveled in both worlds. He never forgot his humble beginnings and shared his successes with all those in need at the earliest opportunity. His tangible and intangible support of farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, community activists and partners in cause alike is innumerable and invaluable. And the humility and modest manner in which he conducted his acts of kindness is a testament to the great man that he was.
Varoujan Koundakjian left all these accomplishments and his rich life behind when he passed away at on July 15, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.