Editor’s Note: On July 15, veteran community activist and devoted member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Varoujan Koundakjian passed away. His funeral mass was held on July 21 at St. Mary’s Armenian Church in Glendale. During the mass, Koundakjian’s son, Sevag, eulogized his father. This week, as his family, relatives, friends and the community remember him on the 40th day of his passing, Asbarez is publishing the moving eulogy.
BY SEVAG KOUNDAKJIAN
Every child dreads this day. All my life I’ve thought about it and experienced relief when my father came home from work, from meetings, from Armenia. Today, there is so much emotion to address and so much history to unravel but I choose to focus on one of the many positive attributes of my father that I believe will be his legacy and a mission my sister and I, with our families, will continue to pursue.
My father always said above everything else one must have a vision in life. And for that vision to bear fruit, you must plan, execute and achieve whatever you set your mind to. Perhaps with a bit of irony he would point out how some people with a drawer full of diplomas had very little ambition or vision. This may sound arrogant or vain, but anyone who knows my father would never attribute those words to him. What he was referring to was much more than self-aggrandizing. To start, he was trying to motivate a young man to reach deeper and see further ahead than the here and now.
I believe my father’s vision in life, his sense of duty, his enduring commitment to family and friends, his undying love of country and devotion to the Armenian people all stem from the desire to create and to find beauty in life. Yes, my father had a revolutionary spirit, yes, my father had a generous heart, and yes, my father had the sharpest of minds. But at his core, at the nucleus of his existence, was the soul of an artist, a seeker of beauty and harmony. This was evident in all that he did. Although he did not have an engineering degree, he innovated tools that would be used at the dawn of the microchip industry. My father supervised several construction projects throughout Armenia. He worked tirelessly to perfect architectural blueprints constantly tweaking and improving designs, again in the pursuit of beauty. He provided his resources and talents to build schools, uplift communities and perpetuate our culture. To improve upon and perfect what came before you and to leave a legacy in ones chosen field is a creative endeavor…and to create is to behold and witness beauty.
Finally, in the struggle for justice and recognition of historic wrongs – he gave the full measure of his life to the Armenian cause and people. I understand now what the purpose of all his sacrifices was and is. He wanted to provide access to the world he experienced to all those less fortunate. Because in his childhood he was deprived of common comforts and the opportunity to seek higher education, he strived to provide them to all those in need. My father thought if millions of children around the world have the opportunity to get an education and prosper, then the same fortune should be provided to Armenian children living in border villages. If farmers across the globe tend to their crops without the fear of being in the crosshairs of a sniper, then the Armenian farmer too should not live in such terror. My father’s deepest desires were for the Armenian people, no matter where they lived, to be given all the blessings and opportunities that any other people enjoy, to live in a more perfect union, to be able to seek out the beauty we all desire. He was driven by this vision all his life. He planned it, executed it and achieved it.
Lessons Passed On by Varoujan
During a memorial luncheon held following Varoujan Koundakjian’s funeral on July 21 at Brandview Collection in Glendale, his daughter-in-law, Yerado Abrahamian recounted the lessons passed on by Varoujan that will fill their family for generations to come. We share her moving tribute this week as we remember Varoujan Koundakjian.
My name is Yerado. I am Sevag’s wife and Kami’s mother.
Even though my father-in-law often referred to me as Ungerouhi, I did not know him in that capacity. I did not know Unger Varouj. I knew him simply as “dad” to my childhood friend Lalig and my husband Sevag. And that relationship has offered me the privilege to learn about a man for whom all the positive adjectives in the world are not enough, a man who so many Armenian organizations list as a founder, a donor, and a pillar; a man who so many individuals credit with positively affecting the course of their lives and giving them the wings they needed to survive; but, mostly a father who would fly to the moon and back for his family.
All of those titles he wore so proudly and the paternal role he played in so many people’s lives, ceased to be, at least for me, when he became a grandfather for the first time two and a half years ago.
The pure and palpable joy he experienced and expressed at the sight and sounds of Kami and Alik can only be described as a kid in a candy store, or, probably more appropriate here, as someone experiencing Ararat for the first time, every time. His insurmountable contributions to our nation and his decades-long dedication to bettering our state had culminated in the existence of these two little humans who bear great Armenian names and great Armenian DNA. Sevag and I will forever regret that his joy was short-lived and that our child will not experience the greatness of his grandfather in person.
But I know this, and I know it well—naming our child Kami Varoujan was not done in vain and he WILL carry the spirit of his namesake. And, we will teach him the ways of his grandfather. We will share the grand Armenian man that he was with Kami and Alik. And, we will share with them the man he was at home, in the wee hours of the day when his world was his nuclear family and nothing more.
Time will not permit me to list all the lessons one may learn from Varoujan Koundakjian, but Sevag, Lalig, Aram and I will love and nurture our children with their grandfather’s unyielding tenets of a great life at the forefront:
-Family is everything. It is your compass, it is your base, it is your home. Protect your family, shield it from pain, provide it with all the luxuries of the heart.
-Armenia is your mission, your passion, and your destination. Work for it. Work in it. Strive to make it the best country in the world. Ignore naysayers and pessimists. Dismiss those who do not have faith in our land. Make it your home.
-Live the Armenian way. Give the Armenian way. Love every Armenian without exception.
-Eat well. Drink fine wine. Appreciate the soil that gives you both.
-Laugh with your friends. Celebrate them and with them, at every opportunity.
-Travel the world. Learn the songs of different cultures. Dance their dances.
-Read Armenian literature. Learn our history. Sing in our language. Honor those whose names we carry.
-Respect your partner in life. Give the world to your children. Give of yourself to anyone in need. Love everyone with all your heart.
My dearest Varoujan, we may have already failed you as your children, but we promise Kami and Alik will soar in your memory and they will make you proud. We will all miss you immensely.