Varoujan Ekserdjian was born in Cairo, Egypt, the middle son of immigrant parents Sepon Ekserdjian and Marie Azadian who settled in Egypt from Istanbul and Kaiseri in 1912 and 1909 respectively. Varoujan spent his early childhood and youth in Heliopolis and attended the Noubarian Armenian School and the Geozubeuyukian College. He was an active member of the H.M.E.M. Nubar basketball team for many years.
Following his Armenian schooling, Varoujan attended the English Mission College in Cairo from where he received his diploma. Upon graduation he specialized in the construction business, completing the Cambridge Engineering and Contracting Course. During WW II he worked at the US Army base in Egypt in the Cartography Department, and after the war, at the Cairo International Airport.
As a contractor, he built many prominent and lesser-known structures in Egypt, such as the Aydzemnig Armenian Retirement Home in Heliopolis, The Archives Building of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Cairo, and various buildings in Heliopolis, Mokattam, Mouski, Mariout and Alexandria.
He also built the Heliopolis Sporting Club’s Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz Mosque. The Mosque was consecrated in 1962 by Egypt’s Vice President Hussein el-Shafei and the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Sheikh Mahmoud Shaltut who congratulated Ekserdjian as the first Christian engineer/contractor designated with the building of a Mosque.
In 1954, Varoujan married Arminée Basmadjian, the daughter of Genocide survivors Hagop and Goussineh Basmadjian and they were blessed with two children: Nora [Armani] and Vazken [Exerjian].
During the visit of Catholicos Vazken I to Egypt in 1960, Varoujan was instrumental in facilitating the Catholicos’ official meetings with Egyptian dignitaries and his audience with President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Varoujan was a humanitarian who helped without reserve all who needed assistance in his entourage. For many years he served as President of the Armenian Diocese Charity Organization (Aghkadakhenam Miyutiun) in Egypt, and registered the organization with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to secure help for Armenian Refugees and their families in Egypt, many years after the Armenian Genocide.
In 1986 after his bereavement from Arminee, his loving spouse, Varoujan immigrated to the USA to live with his daughter Nora Armani and then-son-in-law Gerald Papasian in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles City College and although already experienced as a professional contractor, he enrolled in carpentry and construction courses and obtained his US Certificate and California Contractor’s License. He worked as a contractor for some time and later continued as a property manager until he retired in 2001. He was awarded a recognition certificate by Culver City for improving the Blair Hills neighborhood through property upgrades.
Varoujan joined the ADL (Ramgavar Party) at a very young age and was very active as a prominent member of the Heliopolis Chapter.
“My father was our Rock of Gibraltar. He inspired us with his resilience, his spirit of perseverance and gentle humanitarian streak. We will miss him forever,” said daughter Nora Armani, speaking of her father.
Varoujan passed away on Thursday, August 4, 2016 in Los Angeles, California at the Good Samaritan Hospital. He is survived by daughter Nora Armani Ekserjian, son Vazken Exerjian, son-in-law and grand-son-in-law Ared and Armen Spendjian, and long-time loving partner Eva Calderon. He will be missed dearly by everyone who knew him.
Sincere condolences to the Ekserjian, Spendjian, Krikorian, Latchinian, Heshema, Zakarian, Aramian, Kochar, Tutunjian, Boghosian, Ferhad, Azadian, Papasian and Kupelian families.
Memorial Services celebrating Varoujan Akribas Ekserdjian’s life will take place on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 10:30 am, at St. Peter Armenian Church in Glendale, 632 W. Stocker St., Glendale, CA 91202.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to SOAR (Society of Orphaned Armenian Relief) www.soar-us.org/ or St. Peter Armenian Church in Glendale, California, www.hyeyouth.org.